Aviation Court Rules On Liability Of Private Aircraft In Venezuela

Author:Mr Rodolfo Ruiz
Profession:Clyde & Co

On 4 March 2015, the Venezuelan First Instance Maritime-Aviation Court (the "Court") found partially in favour of LG and YG (the "Claimants") in their claim for Moral Damages against C-YV246C (the "Defendant") for the death of their son (the "Victim") who was being carried gratuitously on board the Defendant's private aircraft when it crashed in Colombian territory on 13 January 2007 (the "Accident") during the course of an international private flight.

The Court awarded damages for the amount equivalent to 10.000 Special Drawing Rights (Approx. USD13.800,00) as a compensation for the death of the Victim in the Accident.

In its ruling the Court confirmed the liability regime applicable to owners of aircraft of private use (private aircraft) in the event of damages caused to passengers carried gratuitously for any cause. The judgement also confirmed that when the facts causing the damage are expressly regulated by the Venezuelan Civil Aviation Law, no moral damages can be awarded.

In a nutshell, the Court held in its decision that:

Liability of private aircraft owners is strict and not only arises from a contract of carriage by air, but also from the carriage per se, regardless of the reason why the carriage is performed; Liability of private aircraft owners for damages caused to gratuitously carried passengers as a result of an accident or incident that took place on board the private aircraft or during the course of any operation of embarking or disembarking is limited to SDR100.000 (Special Drawing Rights) which equates to approximately USD138.000,00; No claim for moral damages under the aforementioned circumstances are admitted; Private aircraft owners can exclude or reduce their liability if they prove that:

They ignored the causes that resulted in the damaging accident or incident; There were no detectable signs of it; and They could not avoid the accident or incident in spite of having taken all necessary measures for that purpose;

In order for liability of private aircraft owners to be triggered, the claimant must only demonstrate:

That the victim was on board the aircraft or in the course of any operation of embarking or disembarking; The loss causing the damage, that is, the accident or incident; the direct connection between the damaging accident or incident and the damage itself (Causation);

Claimants bear the burden of proving the...

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