The Grounds for Limitation of Liability in Private Air Law
The global limitation of the shipowner’s liability has been called the ‘clé de voûte’, the ‘keystone’, of maritime law. International air law does not have a global limitation of liability, and if one had to characterize the importance of limitation of liability in the field of aviation it would be more appropriate to compare it with the ‘leitmotiv’ of some unfinished symphony. It certainly is not the only theme, but it is one that comes back every now and then and which makes international private air law, as it has developed in the last 25 years, unthinkable without a limitation of the carrier’s or operator’s liability.
KeywordsLiability Insurance Individual Limit Brussels Convention Accident Insurance Catastrophical Risk
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- 3).Though the difference is slight for those who construe Art. 20 (1) so as to relieve an air carrier from liability when, in accidents due to an undiscovered cause, he is able to prove that he has taken all general measures as to airworthiness of the aircraft and ability of the crew to prevent the accident, without it being necessary for him to prove that up to the last moment before the accident happened his crew did not commit any negligent act. Thus O. Schreiber in 1 Z.G.L. (1930), 22, at 43; Müller (1932) p. 95; Goedhuis (1937) p. 239; Van Houtte (1940) No. 46; Lemoine (1947)-No. 821; J. Lacombe in 12 R.G.A. (1949) 822, 823; T. C. Giannini in 12 R.G.A. (1949) 334 at 342; (probably) Gay de Montellá (1950), pp. 544/546; Lefebvre d’Ovidio and Pescatore (1949), p. 277 (‘a carico del caricatore i danni [...] da causa ignota’); Chauveau (1951) No. 333. But most, if not all, of the court decisions, and a number of authors have construed Art. 20 (1) to mean that the carrier bears the risk of the cause of an accident remaining unknown. Thus Landgericht Frankfort/Main, 8.3. 1939, 9 A.L. (1939), 180, 187; Wyman and Bartlett v. Pan American Airways, 43 N.-Y.S. 2d 420, 1943 U.S.Av.R. 1, 3; Trib. civ. Brussels, 6.5.1950, 4 R.F.D.A. (1950) 411, 424 (Pauwels v. Sabena). In the same sense Koffka (1937) p. 326, Riese, (1949), p. 459, Abraham in 2 Z.L. (1953), 75 at 85. See also the discussion on Article 20 (1.) at the Rio Session (1953) of the Legal Committee of ICAO, I, pp. 80 sq. The whole problem has been extensively discussed by J. G. H. Sauveplanne, De onopgehelderde oorzaak in het luchtvervoersrecht in Rechtskundige Opstellen aangeboden aan R.P. Cleveringa. Zwolle, 1952, pp. 363 sq.Google Scholar