International carriage – liability for passenger injury or death

Montreal Convention and Warsaw Convention

Do the courts in your state interpret the similar provisions of the Montreal Convention and the Warsaw Convention in the same way?

Yes. Domestic case law expressly mentions the need for a homogenous and stable normative environment, given the existing similarities. Usually, there is a comparative analysis between the Warsaw and the Montreal 1999 regimes.

Do the courts in your state consider the Montreal Convention and Warsaw Convention to provide the sole basis for air carrier liability for passenger injury or death?

Greek case law seems to suggest that all legal requirements with regard to the compensation for a passenger’s death or injury derive solely from the two international instruments. That said and despite their fully acknowledged autonomous content, it continues:

  • the term ‘damage’ is interpreted by and in accordance with the Greek Civil Code, for its legal breadth or substance is not specified in detail in the instruments themselves; and
  • while a contractual liability (carriage) covers only pecuniary damage, if the very same facts also trigger tortious liability, non-pecuniary (moral) damage is also upheld in the form of monetary satisfaction (moral damages), where the court enjoys a wide margin of appreciation or discretion.
Definition of ‘carrier’

In your state, who is considered to be a ‘carrier’ under the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions?

The term ‘carrier’ is interpreted quite restrictively. There must be a legally direct contact or connection between the parties concerned: ground handling agents and other service providers are not considered and, thus, cannot act as carriers, for they do not operate in their own name or capacity, but rather on behalf of the carrier. As for successive carriage, the intention of the contracting parties is of paramount importance: knowledge and adherence to the fact that the trip is perceived by the contracting parties as a unitary activity are the integral parts.

Carrier liability condition

How do the courts in your state interpret the conditions for air carrier liability - ‘accident’, ‘bodily injury’, ‘in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking’ - for passenger injury or death in article 17(1) of the Montreal Convention and article 17 of the Warsaw Convention?

Greek courts interpret the term ‘accident’ in conformity with Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010 and Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention:

  • a carrier that has undertaken the contractual obligation to provide its air services to the passenger;
  • the air accident takes place during the air transportation (ie, during a particular air transportation in an abrupt and violent way, owing to external causes); and
  • causing death or physical harm to the passenger.

The prevailing view seems to suggest that, since the international instruments remain silent on the matter, domestic legislation comes into play. ‘Bodily injury’ is interpreted as physical harm caused by the accident. Danger faced by passengers during flight time is not interpreted as physical harm. There is no established case law on:

  • the disputed issue of whether mental or moral damages are covered, although it has been held that should a passenger suffer from a physical injury he or she is also entitled to moral damages; or
  • the precise time liability is triggered - the basic criterion of whether the carrier actually controls the place where the accident took place is merely proposed by theory.
No negligence defence

How do the courts in your state interpret and apply the ‘no negligence’ defence in article 21 of the Montreal Convention, and the ‘all reasonable measures’ defence in article 20 and the ‘wilful misconduct’ standard of article 25 of the Warsaw Convention?

No established corpus of case law under the Montreal Convention 1999 regime could be traced. The courts will follow the existing case law pattern under the Warsaw system. In short, for claims of more than 113,100 special drawing rights (SDR), the presumption against the carrier may be rebutted in cases where it is proven by the carrier that the latter acted in a prudent and diligent manner during both the preparation of, and the carriage itself, in accordance with article 330, section 2 of the Greek Civil Code. The ‘wilful misconduct’ exception cannot be found (as a legal institution) in domestic (Greek) legislation. According to case law, its essential content is formed partially of dolus (intent) together with the actual practice of the carrier. The latter knows that its acts or omissions might lead to an increase in the risk of loss-making; the final consequences for the acts or omissions attributable to the carrier are of no importance to the carrier itself. This does not mean that the carrier accepts the eventual consequences as a matter of fact. Wilful misconduct is somewhere between intent and negligence.

Advance payment for injury or death

Does your state require that advance payment be made to injured passengers or the family members of deceased passengers following an aircraft accident?

Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No. 2027/1997 (as amended subsequently) is directly applicable in the Greek legal order, superseding all prior and posterior domestic legislation. Domestic courts and other authorities follow its provisions strictly.

Deciding jurisdiction

How do the courts of your state interpret each of the jurisdictions set forth in article 33 of the Montreal Convention and article 28 of the Warsaw Convention?

The ‘black letter’ rule of interpretation is usually applicable for all four bases of jurisdiction. Courts follow existing case law under the Warsaw system. As for the fifth jurisdiction, no reported case law could be traced. The doctrine of forum non conveniens is not recognised verbatim in the Greek legal order. On a few occasions, the courts take into serious consideration issues of bona fides and public order. That said, if the courts are not satisfied when examining their jurisdiction ratione loci and cannot find any valid link, the writ is usually dismissed.

Period of limitation

How do the courts of your state interpret and apply the two-year period of limitations in article 35 of the Montreal Convention and article 29 of the Warsaw Convention?

The very same way they interpret article 279 of the Greek Civil Code. It is subject to tolling (suspension of time limit, eg, in cases of force majeure). It encompasses and regulates the rights and duties of all persons concerned (eg, by reduction, by substitution, insurers).

Liability of carriage

How do the courts of your state address the liability of carriage performed by a person other than the contracting carrier under the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions?

As an issue of concurrent liability, civil action may be instituted against all or some carriers (claimant’s prerogative). The contractual carrier bears full responsibility for the overall transportation, while the actual carrier is liable for the part of the trip that it performed or operated.