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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