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Airlines Denied Stays of Flight Delay Claims

26-February-2015
26-February-2015 14:16
in Aviation and Travel
by Christopher Loxton

A judge sitting at the County Court at Liverpool on 25 February 2015 denied applications made by a number of airlines for stays to claims brought under Regulation (EC) 261/2004 (‘Reg. 261’). 

In a reserved judgment, District Judge Jenkinson rejected applications made by Jet2.com, Wizz Air and Ryanair for stays of a number of Reg.261 claims pending the outcome of a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in a Dutch case called Van der Lans v Koninklijke Lutchvaart Maatschappij NV (‘KLM’) (C-257/14) (‘Van der Lans’).

The airlines had argued that they would be prejudiced in not staying the claims until the CJEU had clarified the applicability of their defences raised in respect of flights that were delayed or cancelled due to technical difficulties experienced by the aircrafts in question.

The claimant passengers had argued that the applicability of such defences had been resolved by the Court of Appeal in the case of Jet2.com Limited v Ronald Huzar [2014] EWCA Civ 791 (‘Huzar’), to which the Supreme Court had refused Jet2.com permission to appeal. 

District Judge Jenkinson determined that, in acting in accordance with the Overriding Objective to deal with cases justly, the applications must be dismissed as the greater prejudice lay with the passengers in having their claims put on hold until the CJEU gave a ruling.

In summary, the reasons for his decision were as follows:

  1. Many passengers had already had their claims stayed pending the Supreme Court’s determination of the Huzar case.  Justice delayed was justice denied and a line had to be drawn in the sand.
  2. There was no clear timescale as to when the CJEU might give a decision in the Van der Lans case, there was a possibility it might be several years away.  In any event, it was by no means certain that the European court would rule in KLM’s (and therefore other airlines’) favour.
  3. The airlines’ suggestion that there could be periodic review hearings to monitor the progress of the Van der Lans reference, and the duration of the stays, risked putting parties on an unequal footing given many of the claimants would be unable to devote the time and expense to such a procedure.
  4. The airlines had provided insufficient evidence to show they would suffer significant financial prejudice if the claims were not stayed.
  5. Conversely, staying the claims would withhold from passengers’ pockets compensation to which they were presently entitled by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Huzar.

It remains to be seen whether the airlines in question will now defend the claims on the basis of distinguishing Huzar from the present claims, or accept defeat and settle the majority of claims concerning technical difficulties. 

Link to Judgment: Allen v Jet2

 

Christopher Loxton

 

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