The Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air of 28 May 1999 provides that any action for indemnity may be brought against either the ‘contractual’ carrier or the ‘effective’ carrier.

If an action is brought against the sole ‘contractual’ carrier, that carrier may in turn proceed against the ‘effective’ carrier, such action then being ruled by the lex fori. The Convention also sets as general principle that the action for indemnity is subject to a 2 year time limit.

This may cause a discrepancy where the lex fori provides for a different time limit - as is the case under French law, where the action must be brought within one year.

The French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) was recently asked to review its position in a case where the ‘contractual’ carrier, whose liability had been triggered on the ground of article 35 of the Convention, had initiated third party proceedings against the ‘effective’ carrier outside the one year limit provided by article L133-6 of the French commercial code.

In its decision dated 29 October 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that the third party proceedings against the ‘effective’ carrier were subject to the 2 year time limit stated by the Montreal Convention.

The Supreme Court’s decision is more than welcome as it sets aside the local characteristics of French law and places the whole chain of carriers on the same level of exposure in terms of time limits, thus offering better legal security.