The Montreal Convention and Damages for “Inconvenience and Mental Anguish”

Lukacs v. United Airlines Inc. and Skywest Airlines Inc., 2009 MBQB 29, affirmed 2009 MBCA 111.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal recently confirmed principles established by American and Canadian appellate courts regarding the recovery of damages for inconvenience and mental anguish resulting from accidents during international air travel.

Mr. Lukacs’ flight from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Columbus, Ohio was cancelled due to aircraft mechanical failure.  As a result, he was unable to attend a conference that was scheduled to begin the next morning.  He was offered a ticket on another flight that departed the next day, but this was unsatisfactory.  Mr. Lukacs was refunded the full price of his airline ticket and the costs associated with the use of a travel agent, but he sued the airline and in part asked for damages for inconvenience and mental anguish.

At trial, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench acknowledged that because the flight in question was an international flight, liability was governed by the Montreal Convention of 1999, implemented in Canada by the Carriage by Air Act.  The court undertook a detailed and comprehensive analysis of American and Canadian case law and confirmed that Mr. Lukacs’ claim for damages was not recoverable under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention.

On appeal, Mr. Lukacs argued that the trial judge made an error in law.  The Manitoba Court of Appeal disagreed and ruled that the Canadian and American appellate court decisions had established a clear principle: general damages for inconvenience and mental anguish are not compensable under the Montreal Convention.