U.S. District Court Holds that the Montreal Convention Does not Provide a Basis for Personal Jurisdiction

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey recently held that although the Montreal Convention confers subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiff’s suit arising from injuries sustained while disembarking a flight to and from destinations abroad, it does not confer personal jurisdiction over the defendant airline absent an injury arising from the carrier’s activities specifically directed at the state in which suit was brought.[1]

In Davydov, the Plaintiff sought to recover damages arising from a personal injury sustained when he fell down a staircase while disembarking a flight that originated in Sweden and landed in Estonia.  The Plaintiff sought to establish both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over the defendant carrier through Article 33(2) of the Montreal Convention, which frequent readers will recall, is a treaty governs injuries sustained while disembarking international fights between signatory countries.  The District Court held that while courts have consistently found that Article 33(2) confers subject matter jurisdiction over a defendant carrier, it does not confer personal jurisdiction.

Accordingly, the Court analyzed whether, absent personal jurisdiction over the Defendant carrier through the Montreal Convention, the Court otherwise had specific personal jurisdiction over the carrier.[2]  Specific personal jurisdiction is established when the non-resident defendant has purposefully directed its activities at the resident forum, and the injury arises from or is related to those activities. The Plaintiff, which has the burden of proving personal jurisdiction, argued that the Court had personal jurisdiction over the Defendant carrier here because: (1) the Defendant carrier regularly conducted flights to and from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey; and (2) publicly advertised its newly renovated lounge in that airport.

The District Court held that it need not analyze whether the Defendant carrier purposely directed its activities at New Jersey because it was clear that Plaintiff’s injuries do not arise out of and are not related to any of the Defendant carrier’s New Jersey contacts.  Rather, the incident related entirely to conduct that occurred overseas.  The subject flight carried the Plaintiff from Sweden to Estonia, and the ticket for carriage was purchased through a Ukrainian travel agency using Ukrainian currency.  The plaintiff was a Florida resident.  Moreover, the Plaintiff did not contend that he relied on or even knew of the renovated lounge in New Jersey, or that the subject trip in any way related to New Jersey.

The Plaintiff offered two arguments to circumvent the obvious lack of connection to New Jersey described above.  First, the Plaintiff argued that his claim “related to” the Defendant carrier’s operations in Newark Airport by reason of Montreal Convention Article 33(2).  Second, Plaintiff argued that the carrier consented to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey by incorporating Article 33(2) of the Montreal Convention into its Conditions of Carriage, the contract from travel executed by the Plaintiff and Defendant.

The court dismissed both arguments on the grounds that, as it already had ruled, Article 33(2) of the Montreal Convention confers only subject matter and not personal jurisdiction.  The mere existence of Montreal Convention could not short-circuit and personal jurisdiction analysis to provide “constitutionally sufficient” contacts in U.S. courts.  In the same regard, the Contract of Carriage demonstrated only that the Defendant carrier consented to subject matter, but not personal jurisdiction in the District of New Jersey.

Based on the foregoing, the Court held that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the Defendant carrier, and dismissed the Plaintiff’s Complaint.

[1] Davydov v. Scandinavian Airlines System, No. 2:19-cv-17628-MCA (D. N.J. October 5, 2016).

[2] The plaintiff did not argue that the Court had general personal jurisdiction over the Defendant carrier.

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