The judgment in case C-510/21 originated from the damage suffered by a passenger on a flight operated by Austrian Airlines. The passenger was burned when a coffee pot containing hot coffee fell on him from a catering trolley. The passenger, who was burned, suffered inadequate treatment on board, the consequences of which became evident after some time.
The dispute between the passenger and Austrian Airlines has reached the Austrian Supreme Court, which has addressed a preliminary questionnaire to the Court of Justice relating to the interpretation of the Montreal Convention().
The Austrian judge has asked the Court of Justice to interpret the notion of “event” pursuant to this Convention to which the Regulation EC 2027/97 on the liability of air carries references to define their liability.
The Court of Justice has observed that the administration of inadequate first aid treatment to a passenger aboard an aircraft, which resulted in an aggravation of personal injuries, must be considered a harmful “event” with correspondence to the Montreal Convention that establishes the liability of the air carrier.
It must be noted that the fact of including the damage in question within the scope of a harmful event pursuant to the said Convention, guarantees the passenger the rapid and concrete compensation, and contextually avoiding the harmful event is attributable to national law, avoids discrimination and excess compensation or, on the contrary, unjustifiable compressions of the compensations itself.
The Court has then observed that this conclusion is in accordance with the Convention as “the States Parties thereto, recognising “the importance of ensuring protection of the interests of consumers in international carriage by air and the need for equitable compensation based on the principle of restitution’, decided to lay down a system of strict liability for air carriers. A system of that kind implies, however, as is apparent from the fifth recital of that convention, that an ‘equitable balance of interests’ be maintained, in particular the interests of air carriers and of passengers” (sentence point 25).
In fact, the Court had underlined that “by restricting the concept of ‘accident’, within the meaning of Article 17(1) of the Montreal Convention, to a series of intrinsically linked events that take place successively, without interruption, in space and time, that provision enables passengers to be compensated easily and swiftly, yet without imposing a very heavy compensation burden on air carriers, which would be difficult to determine and to calculate, and would be liable to undermine, and even paralyse, the economic activity of those carriers (sentence point 26)”.