Facts

The Berlin Regional Court recently decided a case in which the plaintiff claimed compensation for damages that were said to have occurred during air transport. The plaintiff filed a legal action at his home court, the Hamburg Regional Court, but there was no connection to any legal venue. The Hamburg Regional Court referred the matter to the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court, because Frankfurt Airport was the departure airport involved in the case.

The defendant referred to the Air Way Bill, which had been issued for air transport including ancillary transport to and from the airport. The bill consequently listed shippers' and recipients' addresses differing from the departure airport and destination airport. On this basis, the defendant argued that the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court was also not competent to hear the case. The Frankfurt am Main Regional Court followed the defendant's argument and transferred the case to the court of the carrier's registered branch office – the Berlin Regional Court. The Berlin Regional Court received the case only after the expiration of the two-year limitation period under the Montreal Convention. The defendant now argued that all claims were excluded.

Decision

The Berlin Regional Court held in favour of the defendant. Only the filing of a suit with a competent court (Article 33 of the Montreal Convention) hinders the expiration of the two-year limitation period under Article 35 of the convention. Since the original suit had been filed with a non-competent court, the deadline was not met by the plaintiff.

Comment

The Berlin Regional Court handed down a decision based on formalities, but did so according to a correct interpretation of the convention. In transport matters parties often fight over the correct legal venue. While in principle it is feasible to transfer a case to another court without loss of rights, it is not possible according to the Montreal Convention or the Warsaw Convention.

For further information on this topic please contact Carsten Vyvers at Arnecke Sibeth Rechtsanwaelte by telephone (+49 69 97 98 85 0) or email (cvyvers@arneckesibeth.com). The Arnecke Sibeth website can be accessed at www.arneckesibeth.com.

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.