The Court of Milan recently issued a decision regarding Ryanair's alleged abuse of dominant position by refusing to allow an online travel agency to access its database and booking procedures. This is one of several disputes between online travel agencies and Ryanair, whose website's general conditions restrict access for commercial purposes, thereby prohibiting online travel agencies from mediating transactions with customers.
Sovereign immunity is a fundamental principle of international law, providing that states are immune from jurisdiction in other states, save for where such immunity has been waived or otherwise limited. A recent decision of the Milan Court of Appeal has shed further light on the crucial issue of which party bears the burden to prove the elements giving rise to immunity.
In 1980 a jetliner was en route from Bologna to Palermo when it crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea off the island of Ustica; all 81 passengers and crew members were killed. The cause of the accident was never officially established. However, the Supreme Court recently issued its decision on the matter, which has significant implications for both Italian government ministries and the families of the victims.
For the first time in Italian court history, a private class action seeking to obtain damages from a tour operator has been successful. This was made possible with the modification of the Consumer Code during the course of the proceedings, which effectively extended the availability of class actions and made them easier to initiate. This reform of the code will have a significant impact on future class actions.
In January 2012 the Costa Concordia capsized while carrying around 3,200 passengers and 1,000 crew members. The disaster is one of the worst in the cruise industry's recent history, and will likely be the largest marine insurance loss on record. One year on, a host of issues regarding the victims' compensation claims remain unresolved.
Unilateral jurisdiction clauses grant one party the possibility to choose from several jurisdictional options for contractual disputes while the other party is bound to bring an action or claim before a single jurisdiction. Such clauses are generally considered valid, although their validity has been questioned – most recently before the Supreme Court – on the grounds that they lack mutuality or are completely unilateral.
The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the jurisdiction clause contained in a letter of undertaking. The decision is the latest instalment in the Italian side of the long-running dispute between the insurers of the charterers of the vessel Front Comor and its owners, West Tankers. It further confirms the trend followed by Italian courts in favour of the validity of choice of jurisdiction clauses.
A recent Supreme Court decision confirms that awards of punitive damages are non-enforceable in Italy because they are contrary to public policy. However, it is possible to seek the enforcement of a judgment awarding punitive damages when purely compensatory damages can be separated from the punitive element and the punitive damages can therefore be set aside.
The Supreme Court has held that a creditor which is owed a sum of money under one contract may not divide its claim into a number of judicial actions, whether these are brought simultaneously or not. The court found this to breach not only the principle of fairness and good faith, but also the constitutional principle of just process.
In recent years the traditional civil law principle that legal rules are derived primarily from written legislation, rather than being made by judges, has been increasingly eroded. A recent Supreme Court decision raises particularly significant issues relating to medical malpractice and the rights of the unborn child, but also contains instructive comments on the powers and duties of the courts in Italy's civil law system.
The Civil Code expressly states that natural and legal persons must act 'in good faith' or 'fairly' in their contractual relationships. In a case arising from a leading car manufacturer's decision to terminate certain dealers' contracts without cause, the Supreme Court examined the issues of good faith and abuse of rights in the courts' assessment of contractual parties' dealings and interests.
The Code of Criminal Procedure provides that where the same facts are considered in both criminal and civil proceedings, the civil court must assess facts and questions of liability autonomously and may not simply rely on a criminal court's findings. A Supreme Court decision has shed light on this principle and the differing standards of proof in civil and criminal cases.
The new Law on Provisions for Economic Growth, Simplification, Competitiveness and Civil Procedure Issues has come into force. The law implements a wide reform of the Civil Procedure Code, the main aim of which is to introduce measures against the unreasonable length of civil proceedings.
The Italian courts routinely reject claims for recognition of foreign judgments that award punitive damages on the grounds that such awards are inconsistent with the principle of public order. However, in ruling on such a case, the Trento Court of Appeal did not cite Supreme Court precedent, but instead offered original and well-constructed reasons for its decision.
A recent Supreme Court decision strengthens the protection of weaker contracting parties under the Consumer Code. It sets out the test to be applied in determining whether a clause identifying a place of jurisdiction other than the consumer's place of residence or domicile is presumed to be unfair and therefore void.
Italy's new government took office in May 2008 and lost no time in introducing changes to the civil justice system. A decree-law, now converted into law, introduced new rules on class actions, the striking-out of proceedings and service by email, while further proposals in a new bill would affect witness statements, costs awards and the claims heard by justices of the peace.
As a rule, when a judge issues an order other than during a hearing, the clerk of the court must provide counsel with a written copy of the order, which must be served by a bailiff. However, the Supreme Court has considered the criteria that must be met when notifying counsel electronically.
After several failed attempts, an opt-in system of class actions will finally be introduced into the Italian legal system. Only consumer associations may act as 'promoters' - the equivalent of lead plaintiffs - and class actions may be brought against undertakings only.
The European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal. Under Italian law anyone who suffers pecuniary or non-pecuniary damages as a result of a breach of this right is entitled to compensation; the Supreme Court has now resolved the question of the extent to which a claimant must prove non-pecuniary damages.
A recent Supreme Court decision on a claw-back action involving an insolvent entrepreneur and a bank based in San Marino provides guidance on wider questions of jurisdiction, the basis of legal obligations and the scope of the Italian Private International Law Act.