On the 19th June 2014 the Court of Appeal handed down its Judgment in the case of Dawson v Thomson Airways Ltd.
The Court upheld the decision of HHJ Yelton of Cambridge County Court and in so doing they dismissed the airline’s appeal and confirmed that the time limit for bringing a claim for compensation under EC Regulation 261/2004 is indeed 6 years as per Section 9 of the Limitation Act.
In this case the airline accepted the ruling in Joan Cuadrench Moré v Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij NV (Case C‑139/11). In that case the European Court of Justice was asked the following simple question:-
Is [Regulation No 261/2004] to be interpreted as meaning that, as regards time‑limits for bringing proceedings, Article 35 of the Montreal Convention, establishing a two-year period, is applicable, or must some other [European Union] provision or domestic law be regarded as applicable?
In other words is a claim brought under the Regulation subject to a time-limit of 2 years or some other period.
The Court held that the time-limit for bringing a claim for compensation must be determined in accordance with the rules of each individual country. Furthermore the Court specifically says at Paragraph 28, “The compensation measure laid down in Articles 5 and 7 of Regulation No 261/2004 falls outside the scope of the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions.”
The ECJ therefore made it quite clear that:-
a) The time-limit must be determined by each individual country; and
b) The Regulation falls outside of the scope of the Montreal Convention.
The airline argued that the law of England of Wales, in particular the case of Sidhu v British Airways Plc held that all claims made against an airline which arise out of carriage by air must be subject to the terms of the Montreal Convention.
There was therefore an irreconcilable conflict between the decision of the House of Lords in Sidhu and the decision of the ECJ in Moré.
Mr Dawson argued that the relationship between the Regulation and the Montreal Convention is a matter of European law and as such the Court is bound to follow the rulings of the ECJ in Moré, Nelson, IATA etc.
The Court of Appeal held that this was indeed a question of European law and as such they were bound to follow those cases, which have each held that the Regulation falls outside of the Montreal Convention.
Since the time-limit must not be determined in accordance with the Montreal Convention it falls to be determined by Section 9 of the Limitation Act 1980 which in England and Wales is 6 years for this type of claim.