Sarah Stewart, Peter Neenan and Kieran Mercer, in our Aviation team attended the Twelfth Annual McGill University Conference on International Aviation: Liability, Insurance & Finance in Montreal, Canada, on 19-20 October 2019.

Peter was a panellist for the opening discussion which addressed recent developments in air carrier passenger liability, specifically focussing on the high-profile litigation which has arisen following the accidents involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The panel reviewed recent interpretations of key provisions of the Montreal Convention and the jurisdictional considerations litigators face when deciding where to bring their actions.

Peter noted how aviation accident data over the last 10 years revealed that jurisdiction could be established in America in only 15% of aviation accidents involving international operators when applying the approach taken in the recent case of Erwin-Simpson v AirAsia Berhad. This was despite the US Executive and Legislative branches claim twenty years ago that the Montreal Convention would allow access to US courts for “virtually all American accident survivors and the families of American victims of airline disasters”. A fact, as noted by Judy Nemsick of Holland & Knight , that was compounded by US constitutional rules for the need to establish personal jurisdiction taking priority over international law obligations.

Other panels of interest included,  developments in product liability claims including the legal issues which emanate from the trend toward aircraft system automation; strategies for the effective management and resolution of aerospace claims against insurers; and reflections on the Montreal Convention as the treaty celebrates its twentieth year of operation.

One of the key takeaways from the two days was the industry’s picture of the future. In the era of growing aircraft systems automation and reliance on technology, litigation in the aftermath of air accidents will require increasing consideration of the relationship between the pilot and the aircraft system’s functionality.

Another key point from the conference was around regulation of drones. In particular, the requirement for effective regulation and understanding of increasingly complex aircraft operating systems that will become more pertinent as carriers and pilots begin to share the skies with large numbers of drones which are set to populate the skyline in the coming decade.

The conference which was sponsored by Stewarts was well-attended by claimant and defendant lawyers, international regulators and academics and provided an excellent opportunity to share observations on the latest issues in international aviation law.



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