Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, S. p. A. v. Lisi

PETITIONER: Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, S. p. A.
RESPONDENT: Lisi
LOCATION: New Kent County School Board

DOCKET NO.: 70
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 390 US 455 (1968)
ARGUED: Mar 11, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 25, 1968

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, S. p. A. v. Lisi

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 11, 1968 in Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, S. p. A. v. Lisi

Earl Warren:

Number 70, Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane and versus John Lisi, etcetera, et al.

Mr. Tompkins.

George N. Tompkins, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case involves the interpretation of a treaty of the United States, commonly known as the Warsaw Convention.

Very briefly, the Warsaw Convention is a multi-nation agreement which has two basic objectives.

The first of these is to minimize conflicts of law which arise in the international transportation by air, of passengers, baggage and cargo.

The second objective and probably the more important, is to establish throughout the world the uniform rules relating to a liability of the carrier.

The fundamental question which this case present to the Court, is whether these treaty is to be interpreted and applied in the United States, on a basis of purely local concepts of law and policy and in disregard of the international obligations of the treaty.

The facts which give rise to this question are not in dispute and maybe briefly summarized.

Respondents brought damage actions in the District Court in connection with an accident which occurred in Ireland in 1960.

These actions were brought in behalf of 13 passengers who were killed, injured and some suffered property loses.

At the time of the accident and again this is not in dispute each of these passengers was traveling on a passenger ticket and baggage check which provided for international transpiration within the meaning of Article I of the treaty.

By this fact alone, all of the provisions of the treaty apply to the rights of the parties to the damage actions.

In answering the complaints, the petitioner alleged several affirmative defenses based upon those provisions of the treaty which subject to proof by the carrier limit or exclude to carrier's liability for the damages claim.

Upon motion of respondents, District Court granted partial summary judgment dismissing these affirmative defenses holding that the treaty provisions limiting liability do not apply unless the carrier has given the passenger notice of the application of these provisions to his transportation.

On appeal of Court of Appeals affirmed in a two to one decision.

The court below has held that this treaty in United States shall not apply insofar as limited carriers liability unless the carrier has notified the passenger before him that on a journey he is about to undertake the treaty applies and limits his liability.

We submit that this decision is in direct conflict with the intent of the parties to this treaty as expressed in a plain language of the treaty itself and confirmed by its drafting history.

Furthermore, --

Where did the Court of Appeals find the source of that notice requirement, in the treaty or outside --

George N. Tompkins, Jr.:

They purport it to find it from the treaty Your Honor.

I beg your pardon.

George N. Tompkins, Jr.:

They purport it to find it from the treaty but there is no notice requirement in the treaty by its plain language.

They resorted to cases which dealt primarily with the timeliness of the delivery of the ticket and read in to the treaty a provision which the parties had expressly rejected as to notice and which the parties themselves had determined going to be added by amending the treaty in 1955.

Okay then.

Abe Fortas:

Well, would've be fair to say that the Court of Appeals relied on the fact that Article III requires not only that a ticket must be delivered to the passenger but also that the ticket must contain a statement that the transportation is subject to the rules relating to liability established by this convention?

George N. Tompkins, Jr.:

That is what the Court of Appeals did.

Abe Fortas:

And then the Court of Appeals said that statement when the treaty speaks in terms of the statement it speaks that it means a statement that is permanent so that it's easily legible, is that -- am I correct in that?

George N. Tompkins, Jr.:

You're correct in what the Court of Appeals has say, yes.

I would also point out that the decision of the court below is contrary to the long standing practice and understanding of the parties themselves including the United States.