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Alter Ego and Joint Venture Theories Permitted Under Montreal Convention

The Montreal Convention provides that carriers are liable for damages when a passenger is injured or killed on an international flight. When a carrier lacks the assets to cover these damages, however, claimants may have no recourse unless liability under the Convention may be applied against other parties. A recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has endorsed a theory for expanded liability in a noteworthy decision.

In In re Air Crash Near Rio Grande Puerto Rico on December 3, 2008, the court considered claims that liability under the Montreal Convention should extend to third parties when a claim is made that the named carrier was used as the alter ego of another party or when a third party is claimed to have engaged in a joint venture with the carrier. These theories of third-party liability, commonly recognized under state law, are not expressly mentioned by the Montreal Convention. Nonetheless, the Florida court ruled that these theories could be asserted under the Convention, if they were recognized under the law of the forum. Since Florida law recognizes both theories, the court held that claims could be asserted both against an alter ego and against a joint venturer for damages recoverable under the Montreal Convention.