Brownlie: a wide approach to “damage” for jurisdiction purposes

In the Supreme Court’s decision today in Brownlie v Four Seasons (Cairo), a 4:1 majority of the Justices allowed the underlying tort claim to proceed in England & Wales and rejected the defendant’s argument that there was no jurisdiction here.

The decision turns on the rather rarefied point of the meaning of “damage … sustained within the jurisdiction”, one of the necessary elements in securing the court’s permission to serving proceedings outside England & Wales. What the decision means is that 11 years after the death of her husband in the index accident in Egypt and after two separate visits to the Supreme Court, the claimant should now finally be able to progress this significant fatal accident claim.

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E-scooter incident data due to be published by government before year end

Recent news points to useful data relating to e-scooters becoming available over the next few months.

First is the statement last week from DfT Roads Minister Rachel MacLean that “We intend to publish data on e-scooters and other vehicle types which can be reliably identified from the free text field [in the STATS19 accident database used by police forces] alongside the annual Reported Road Casualties Great Britain statistics publication in September 2021. In the future, the STATS19 data collection system will be amended so that e-scooters (and similar) can be identified as a vehicle type”. Second is Ms MacLean’s confirmation just yesterday that in respect of the ongoing e-scooter trials, “An interim report summarizing findings from the data collected so far will be published in autumn 2021, with a final report due in spring 2022.”

We’ll be looking out for that interim report and will of course post our analysis of the DfT’s interim findings on this blog just as soon as we can after publication.

Written by Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at BLM

Coffee, claims and the courts: an airline’s liability considered

In the mid-1990s, the litigation involving hot coffee served by McDonald’s in the USA acquired almost urban myth status. According to the key legal reference source that is Wikipedia, the “1994 product liability lawsuit became a flashpoint in the debate in the United States over tort reform” – which suggests to me that reports of the case would probably have ‘gone viral’ had social media been around at the time.

Much more recently, and in the very different settings of European air travel and the special legal regime of the Montreal Convention, the case of a passenger burned by hot coffee came before the Court of Justice of European Court (CJEU).  This is a serious case and far from an EU ‘bendy banana’ style scare story: the claimant was aged six at the time of the incident in which she suffered second degree burns.

The preliminary question for the court was whether the coffee spill was an “accident” for the purposes of the Montreal Convention, given that “accident” is the trigger for engaging an air carrier’s strict liability under the Convention.

In a detailed and principled judgment last month the CJEU held that this was an “accident”, dismissing the carrier’s argument that “accident” should be understood as relating to hazards typically associated with aviation rather than, say, food or drinks service.

Unsurprisingly, claims under the Convention are a specialist technical field.  My colleague Sandeep Aujla practices exclusively in the travel area and provides below her expert analysis of the case and its implications for the sector.

Alistair Kinley, Director of Policy & Government Affairs

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