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18 December 2013
In June 2012 passengers Alejandra Graciela Belmartino and María Rene Martinez filed a complaint against American Airlines and Aerovias de Mexico seeking compensation of Ps20,000 (approximately $3,300) for the late delivery of their luggage and for alleged missing items.
In June 2008 the plaintiffs travelled from Mexico to New York with Aeroméxico, and then from New York to Milan with American Airlines. The plaintiffs alleged that the airlines' personnel had informed them that the luggage would be delivered directly to Milan, but that when they arrived at the airport in Milan, their luggage was missing. Due to the lack of luggage at arrival, the plaintiffs allege that they had to purchase clothes and personal items.
According to their evidence, both airlines indicated that the passengers should have checked their luggage at New York before onward transport to Milan.
After a few days, the plaintiffs' luggage was found and delivered to them. However, the plaintiffs claimed that in the process the bags had been damaged and opened, and several items were missing, including a camera.
The first-instance court held against the plaintiffs and rejected the complaint.
Delay in delivery
The court first determined that the airlines bore no responsibility for the delayed delivery of the luggage. The case was governed by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air, signed at Warsaw on October 12 1929, as well as the Hague Protocol and the Montreal Protocol 2. The court pointed out that Articles 19 and 21 of the Warsaw Convention set forth that:
"The carrier is liable for damage occasioned by delay in the carriage by air of passengers, luggage or goods… [and] if the carrier proves that the damage was caused by or contributed to by the negligence of the injured person the Court may, in accordance with the provisions of its own law, exonerate the carrier wholly or partly from his liability."
Based on these articles, the court emphasised that the plaintiffs had failed to check their luggage on arrival in New York. The court consequently rejected the passengers' allegations.
As to the missing items claimed by the plaintiffs, according to the Warsaw Convention:
"1. Receipt by the person entitled to the delivery of baggage or cargo without complaint is prima facie evidence that the same have been delivered in good condition and in accordance with the document of carriage.
2. In the case of damage, the person entitled to delivery must complain to the carrier forthwith after the discovery of the damage, and, at the latest, within seven days from the date of receipt in the case of baggage and fourteen days from the date of receipt in the case of cargo. In the case of delay the complaint must be made at the latest within Essential Documents on International Air Carrier Liability twenty-one days from the date on which the baggage or cargo have been placed at his disposal…
4. Failing complaint within the times aforesaid, no action shall lie against the carrier, save in the case of fraud on his part."
In the case at hand, the court found that no complaint had been filed by the plaintiffs within the periods indicated by the convention. Moreover, the plaintiffs had provided no evidence to support their allegations with regard to the missing items.
The court therefore rejected the plaintiffs' complaint, arguing that the evidence produced in the case was insufficient to prove their allegations. In fact, no documentation had been provided by the plaintiffs to prove the loss of the alleged missing items, nor had they claimed in due time.
The plaintiffs did not appeal the court's decision.
For further information on this topic please contact Elizabeth Mireya Freidenberg at Freidenberg Freidenberg & Lifsic by telephone (+54 11 4311 4991), fax (+54 11 4311 0852) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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