Home Information Cases Rolls Royce plc & Ors v Heavylift-Volga DNEPR Ltd & Ors (2000)

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Rolls Royce plc & Ors v Heavylift-Volga DNEPR Ltd & Ors (2000)

Summary

The claimant's goods had been taken into the charge of the carrier's agent when the latter started to unload them from the claimant's delivery lorry. That point constituted carriage of goods by air for the purposes of Warsaw Convention, Art.18. "Airside" and "landside" divisions within East Midlands Airport were irrelevant for the purpose of determining whether damage to the claimant's goods had occurred "inside an aerodrome".

Facts

Action by the claimants (RR) for damages arising out of an incident at East Midlands Airport when one of its aircraft engines was damaged whilst being unloaded from RR's delivery lorry by the second defendant cargo handling agents (Servisair) prior to its carriage by the first defendant carriers (HVD) to the United States. The Airport was divided (either physically or notionally) into "landside" and "airside" parts. Servisair's cargo shed, into which it received all deliveries of goods for carriage by air, was wholly landside. The damage to the engine was sustained when it fell off a fork lift truck, operated by one of Servisair's employees, which was attempting to lift the engine off RR's delivery lorry. HVD contended that it was entitled to the limit on liability contained in Art.18 of the Warsaw Convention. The principal issues for determination in relation to the applicability of the Convention were: (1) was the engine "in the charge" of HVD (as carrier) by its agent Servisair at the time that the accident occurred; (2) if so, had the accident occurred "in an aerodrome" within the meaning of the Convention; and (3) if so, was HVD precluded from relying upon Art.18 by reason of the damage having been caused by the wilful misconduct or default of Servisair acting as its agent.

Held

(1) RR's engine had been taken into the charge of HVD when its agent, Servisair, started to unload it from RR's delivery lorry, and hence it was that point which constituted the commencement of the carriage of those goods by air for the purposes of Art.18 of the Convention. (2) "Airside" and "landside" divisions within East Midlands Airport were irrelevant for the purpose of determining whether damage to the engine had occurred "inside an aerodrome". The simple fact was that the accident had occurred within the physical boundaries of the airport, and hence "in an aerodrome" for the purposes of the Convention (Victoria Sales Corp v Emery Air Freight (1990) 917 Federal Reporter 705 considered). It was nonsensical to posit that if cargo unloading took place in the USA, it would be covered by the convention, but if the same activity had been carried out in the UK it would be outside the Convention. (3) Although Servisair, by its employees, had undoubtedly been negligent in relation to the damage caused to the engine, that conduct could not be said to have been so deliberate or reckless as to amount to "wilful misconduct or default". The engine was damaged whilst in the charge of the Carrier's agents; it was damaged during the carriage by air. (4) Therefore HVD was entitled to rely upon the Convention as limiting the extent of its liability to RR.

Judgment accordingly.

Chancery Division
Morrison J
Judgment date
3 April 2000
References

​(2000) 1 Lloyd’s Rep 653 : (2000) CLC 1120 : Times, April 26, 2000

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