Chan v. Korean Air Lines, Ltd.

RESPONDENT:Korean Air Lines, Ltd.
LOCATION:Circuit Court of Orange County, Florida

DOCKET NO.: 87-1055
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 490 US 122 (1989)
ARGUED: Dec 07, 1988
DECIDED: Apr 18, 1989

Gilton G. Sincoff – for petitioners
George N. Tompkins, Jr. – on behalf of Respondent
Milton G. Sincoff – on behalf of the Petitioners
Richard J. Lazarus – Amicus Curiae, supporting petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Chan v. Korean Air Lines, Ltd.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – December 07, 1988 in Chan v. Korean Air Lines, Ltd.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 18, 1989 in Chan v. Korean Air Lines, Ltd.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in number 87-1055, Chan versus Korean Airlines will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on certiorari to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

It involves wrongful death actions against– one of its planes was destroyed by Soviet aircraft over the Sea of Japan.

All parties agreed that their rights are governed by the multilateral treaty known as the Warsaw Convention, which provides a per passenger damages limitation for personal injury or death.

The convention provides that passenger tickets must include notice of this limitation.

The private accord among airlines known as the Montreal Agreement, prescribes that this notice shall be in print size no smaller than 10-point type.

Korea Airlines’ notice to its passengers on the flight in question here appeared in only 8-point type.

This case required us to decide whether this discrepancy deprived KAL of the benefit of the damages limitation.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we affirm the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and incidentally agree with the Supreme Court of Canada in holding that international air carriers do not loose the benefit of the Warsaw Convention’s damages limitation if they fail to provide notice of that limitation and passenger tickets.

Montreal Agreement concededly does no impose such a sanction and such a result is contrary to the convention’s plain language.

Drafting history of the convention maybe consulted to clarify a text that is ambiguous but where the text is clear as the Warsaw Convention is on this point.

We have no power to insert an amendment into what the signatories have formally adopted.

Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in which Justices Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens joined.