Warner v Scapa Flow Charters (Scotland): SC 17 Oct 2018

This appeal raises a question about the interpretation of article 16 of the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974 (‘the Athens Convention’) and its application to the Scots law of limitation of actions. The pursuer’s son was fatally injured diving from a boat hired from the defenders, who now appealed from a decision that the claim was not time-barred.
Held: Mrs Warner’s claim as Vincent’s guardian was not time barred by the Athens Convention. The court should not give a technical meaning to the words ‘suspension and interruption’ which, the appellant asserted, can be derived from certain civil law systems. It is not appropriate to look to the domestic law of certain civil law systems for a technical meaning of the words in an international convention which was designed to be operated in many common law systems as well. Even within civil law systems and mixed legal systems which are strongly influenced by the civil law there was no uniformity in the use of the expression ‘suspension’ in 1974 when the Athens Convention was adopted. Furthermore: ‘an interpretation of article 16(3) of the Athens Convention as excluding domestic rules which have the effect of postponing the start of a limitation period would give rise to serious anomalies. Many legal systems suspend the operation of prescription or limitation when a claimant is a minor or is subject to a recognised legal disability such as mental incapacity. If Mr Howie were correct in his interpretation of ‘suspension’ in the Athens Convention, the Convention would recognise as a ground of suspension a legal incapacity which arose after the prescription or limitation period commenced but not such incapacity that predated the start of that period. A minor born before the commencement of the prescription or limitation period could not take advantage of the added year which article 16(3) provides but a minor born after the commencement of the period would benefit from that added year. A similar anomaly would arise depending on the date on which a creditor or claimant was affected by an incapacity such as mental illness.’ The words in article 16(3) of the Athens Convention, ‘the grounds of suspension . . of limitation periods’ are sufficiently wide to cover domestic rules which postpone the start of a limitation period as well as those which stop the clock after the limitation period has begun.
Lady Hale, President, Lord Reed, Deputy President, Lord Sumption, Lord Hodge, Lord Briggs
[2018] UKSC 52, 2019 SCLR 413, [2018] 1 WLR 4974, [2019] 2 All ER 1042, [2018] WLR(D) 651, 2019 SC (UKSC) 1, 2018 SLT 1057, 2018 GWD 32-411, [2019] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 529, [2019] 2 All ER (Comm) 1, UKSC 2017/0103, https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2017-0103-press-summary.pdf
Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Summary Video, SC 2018 Jun 28 am Video
Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 16, Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973
At Outer HouseWarner v Scapa Flow Charters SCS 14-Jul-2016
(Outer House) The pursuer’s son had died in a diving accident from a boat hired from the defenders whose negligence, she said, was the cause of the injury. The defenders argued that the claim was time-barred.
Held: The Lord Ordinary upheld the . .
CitedStag Line v Foscolo, Mango and Company HL 1931
English statutes which give effect to international conventions need to be interpreted with the international origin of the rules well in mind. The Act only applies to contracts of carriage of goods outwards from ports in the United Kingdom, and the . .
CitedJames Buchanan and Co Ltd v Babco Forwarding and Shipping (UK) Ltd HL 1978
A consignment of whisky was stolen whilst on consignemt from a bonded warehouse under CMR terms for Teheran. In bond, it was worth 7,000 pounds, and on export no excise duty was to be paid. Being stolen in the course of transit, excise duty of . .
CitedFothergill v Monarch Airlines Ltd HL 10-Jul-1980
The plaintiff, on arriving at the airport found that his luggage had been lost. The defendant denied liability saying he had not notified his claim within the requisite period.
Held: Elementary justice requires that the rules by which the . .
CitedKing v Bristow Helicopters Ltd; Morris v KLM Royal Dutch Airlines HL 28-Feb-2002
Psychiatric Injury under Warsaw Convention
The applicants were passengers who claimed damages for psychiatric injury, after accidents in aircraft.
Held: The Convention created strict liability on air carriers, but explicitly restricted damages to be payable for ‘bodily injury’. That . .
CitedHigham v Stena Sealink Ltd CA 26-Feb-1996
The Convention limitation period of two years overrode the national period where it was applied. . .
CitedSidhu and Others v British Airways Plc; Abnett (Known as Sykes) v Same HL 13-Dec-1996
The claimants had been air passengers who were unlawfully detained in Kuwait, when their plane was captured whilst on the ground on the invasion of Kuwait. They sought damages for that detention.
Held: There are no exceptions to the Warsaw . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 27 September 2021; Ref: scu.625869