Carriage of Passengers by Sea
Commentaries are intended as an introduction or overview of the topic. The commentaries for some topics are more detailed than others but none of them should be taken as a complete and full recitation of the law applicable to the topic.
Carriage of Passengers
The carriage of passengers is regulated by Part 4 of the Marine Liability Act which implements the 1974 Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea and the 1990 Protocol and introduces special Canadian amendments. The operative section is Section 37 which gives the Convention and Protocol the force of law in Canada.
Article 2 of the Athens Convention provides that the provisions of the conventions apply to: (a) any international carriage if the carrying “ship” is flagged or registered in a State party to the convention, (b) the “contract of carriage” is made in a State party to the convention, or (c) the place of departure or destination is, according to the contract of carriage, in a State party to the convention. The terms “ship” and “contract of carriage” are defined terms under the Athens Convention. “Ship” is defined as a seagoing vessel. “Contract of carriage” is defined as a contract for the carriage by sea of a “passenger”. “Passenger” is in turn defined as any person carried in a “ship”. The net effect of these definitions and Article 2 is that the Athens Convention applies of its own force only to international contracts for the carriage of passengers in seagoing ships. This application was considered too narrow for Canada and was therefore expanded by sections 36 and 37 of the MLA .
Section 36 expands on the definition of ship to include ships of all types, whether seagoing or not. The effect of this change in definition is to make the Convention applicable to the carriage of passengers on inland lakes and rivers.
Section 37(2)(a) expressly makes the Convention applicable to contracts for the domestic carriage of passengers as well as international carriage.
Section 37 (2)(b) further extends the application of the convention by dispensing with the requirement that there be a contract of carriage in the case of persons (excluding the Master, crew or employees) carried on ships operated for a commercial or public purpose. This is achieved through the following strangely worded provision:
"37(2) Articles 1 to 22 of the Convention also apply in respect of...
(b) the carriage by water, otherwise than under a contract of carriage, of persons or of persons and their luggage, excluding
(i) the master of a ship, a member of a ship’s crew or any other person employed or engaged in any capacity on board a ship on the business of the ship, and
(ii) a person carried on board a ship other than a ship operated for a commercial or public purpose."
The first clause of section 37(2)(b) extends the application of the Convention to the carriage of all persons regardless of whether there is a contract of carriage. The use of the term “persons” and the discarding of the requirement that there be a contract of carriage make the Convention applicable to virtually every person on board a ship for whatever reason. It is for this reason that the qualifiers in 37(2)(b)(i) and (ii) are introduced. Section 37(2)(b)(i) states that the Convention does not apply to the master or crew of the ship or other persons employed on board the ship. Section 37(2)(b)(ii) is intended to ensure that the Convention does not apply to persons carried on board pleasure craft.
In summary, the combination of Article 2 of the conventions and sections 36 and 37 of the MLA make the Convention applicable to both domestic and international carriage of passengers (except 'adventure tourism") in ships of all sorts on inland lakes and rivers as well as the high seas. In addition, persons (not being master, crew or employees) on board ships used for commercial or public purposes are governed by the Convention regardless of the existence of a contract of carriage.
Section 37.1 of the MLA has an important exclusion for "Adventure Tourism". Specifically, s. 37.1 exempts "adventure tourism activities" from the provisions of Part 4. Adventure tourism is an activity that: 1. exposes participants to an aquatic environment; 2. normally requires safety equipment and procedures beyond the norm; 3. exposes participants to greater risks than normal; 4. its risks have been presented to the participant and they have accepted in writing to be exposed to them; and 5. any other prescribed condition (of which there are none as of January 2011). Where these conditions are met, Part 4 of the MLA does not apply. The exclusion of adventure tourism from Part 4 means that the liability of adventure tourism operators is governed by the general common law and that exclusion clauses can be used by such operators for such activities. It further means that the ship owner/operator cannot benefit from the limitation amounts established by Part 4 but is rather subject to the limits in Part 3 of the MLA. In turn, this means that the owner/operator could be subject to a higher limit of liability than would otherwise be the case if the activity was governed by Part 4.
Liability and Burden of Proof
Pursuant to Article 3, the carrier under the Athens Convention is liable for damages suffered due to the death or personal injury of the passenger or for the loss of or damage to the passenger’s luggage where (1) the incident which caused the damage occurred during the course of carriage and (2) the damage was due to the fault or neglect of the carrier or his servants or agents acting within the scope of their employment. The burden of proving the incident which caused the damage occurred during the course of carriage is on the claimant. In cases of shipwreck, collision, stranding, explosion, fire or defect in the ship, the fault or neglect of the carrier is presumed. Similarly, for claims in respect of loss of or damage to luggage the fault of the carrier is presumed. In all other cases, the burden of proving the fault or neglect of the carrier is on the claimant.
Who is Liable
The Athens Convention recognizes that there are often two types of carriers, contracting carriers and performing carriers, and makes both liable. The term “carrier” is defined in Article 1(a) as the person by or on behalf of whom a contract of carriage has been concluded regardless of whether the carriage is performed by him or a performing carrier. The term “performing carrier” is defined as the person who actually performs all or part of the contract of carriage.
Pursuant to Article 4, where there is both a contracting and performing carrier, the “carrier” (i.e. the contracting carrier) remains liable for the entire carriage. Further, pursuant to Article 4(2) the contracting carrier is made liable for the acts and omissions of the performing carrier. The liability of the “performing carrier” is invoked by Article 4(1) which makes the “performing carrier” subject to and entitled to the provisions of the Convention for that part of the carriage performed by him.
Article 4(4) provides that where both the contracting and performing carriers are liable their liability is joint and several.
Limitation of Liability
The carrier under the Athens Convention is given the right to limit his liability. Article 7 provides that the maximum liability of the carrier for the death of or personal injury to a passenger is 175,000 SDR (approximately C$350,000). Article 8 provides that the maximum liability of the carrier for loss of or damage to cabin luggage is limited to 1,800 SDR (C$3,150) and to 10,000 SDR (C$17,500) for loss of or damage to a vehicle including all luggage carried in the vehicle. Other types of luggage are subject to a limitation of 2,700 SDR (C$4,725) per passenger per carriage. (Note: All SDR amounts are converted to Canadian dollars at a rate of 1 SDR= C$1.75. This rate does however fluctuate. The current rate of exchange can be found at various internet sites including here.)
The above limits are individual limits applicable to claims by individual passengers. In the case of claims by multiple passengers, the carrier may seek the right to limit liability to a global figure pursuant to Part 3 of the MLA and the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability. Article 19 of the Athens Convention would appear to preserve this right in the carrier.
Loss of Right to Limit
Article 13 provides that the carrier will lose his right to limit liability where it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with the knowledge that such damage would probably result.
Article 15 prescribes a notice provision for claims for the loss of or damage to luggage. For “apparent” damage, the passenger is required to give written notice of such damage at the time of disembarkation for cabin luggage or the time of re-delivery for other luggage. In the case of loss of luggage or damage that is not “apparent”, the passenger must give written notice within 15 days from the date of disembarkation or re-delivery. In the absence of written notice, the luggage is presumed to have been received in good condition.
Prescription/ Time Limitation
Article 16 prescribes the applicable limitation periods. In the case of personal injury or loss of or damage to luggage the limitation period is two years from the date of disembarkation. In the case of death of the passenger during the carriage the limitation period is two years from the date the passenger should have disembarked. In the case of a death resulting after disembarkation due to a personal injury received during the carriage, the limitation period is two years from the date of the death but shall not exceed three years from the date of disembarkation.
Article 17 prescribes the jurisdictions in which a claim under the Convention must be brought. Those jurisdictions are: the place where the defendant has his permanent residence or principal place of business; the place of departure or of destination under the contract; the place where the claimant is domiciled or has permanent residence provided the defendant also has a place of business in that State; or the place where the contract of carriage was made if the defendant has a place of business in that State.
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Convention any contractual provision that tends to relieve the carrier of his liability or to fix a lower limit of liability than that prescribed shall be null and void. Similarly, any provision tending to shift the burden of proof which rests upon the carrier or to restrict the claimants right to commence proceedings in the specified jurisdictions is null and void.
For additional information, also see the paper The Marine Liability Act, Parts 2, 3 and 4: Apportionment of Liability, Limitation of Liability and Carriage of Passengers - 2002.
The database contains 18 case summaries relating to Carriage of Passengers by Sea. The summaries are sorted in reverse date order with 20 summaries per page. If there are more than 20 summaries, use the navigation links at the bottom of the page.
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Passengers - Athens Convention – Limitation Period – Suspension/Interruption
Gaudet v. Navigation Madelaine Inc., 2014 QCCS 4106
Précis: The Quebec Superior Court held that the provisions of the Quebec Civil Code could apply to extend the limitation period in the Athens Convention, although the court did not do so in the circumstances.
Facts: The plaintiff was a passenger on board the defendant’s vessel and was injured when a door closed on his index finger. The accident occurred on 12 March 2011. The plaintiff subsequently commenced proceedings in the Quebec Superior Court against the defendant on 4 December 2013, more than two years after the accident. The defendant brought this application to dismiss the claim on the grounds that the limitation/prescription period had expired.
Decision: Application allowed and claim dismissed.
Held: The plaintiff’s claim is governed by Canadian maritime law. Article 16 of the Athens Convention stipulates a two year limitation/prescription period from the date of disembarkation for claims for the death or injury of a passenger. The plaintiff argues that the three year limitation period in s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act applies or, alternatively, that the provincial limitation period applies pursuant to s. 39 of the Federal Courts Act. However, these provisions only apply if there is no specific prescribed limitation period. Here there is a prescribed period namely, the two year period in the Athens Convention. The plaintiff further argues that the limitation period should be extended or interrupted because he was not able to fully quantify his claim until he received his expert assessment on 14 November 2013. Article 16(3) of the Athens Convention provides that issues of suspension or interruption of the limitation period are to be governed by the law of the court seized of the case and Art. 2904 of the Civil Code provides for suspension/interruption of limitation periods in limited circumstances. However, ignorance of the exact extent of the damage is not a grounds for suspending a limitation period.
Comment: The holding in this case that Art. 2904 of the Quebec Civil Code could apply to extend the limitation period is questionable. Cases to the contrary include: MacKay v. Russell, 2007 NBCA 55; Frugoli v. Services aeriens des Cantons de l’Est inc., 2009 QCCA 1246; and Malcolm v. Shubenacadie Tidal Bore Rafting Park Limited, 2014 NSSC 217.
Athens Convention - Limitation Period - Provincial Limitation Laws not Applicable - Change in legislation not given retrospective effect - No Discretion to Extend Limitation Period - Choice of Provincial Law in Contract
Malcolm v. Shubenacadie Tidal Bore Rafting Park Limited, 2014 NSSC 217
Précis: The Nova Scotia Supreme Court held that the limitation period applicable to a river rafting accident that occurred prior to the 2009 amendments to the Marine Liability Act, was the two year limit in the Athens Convention which could not be extended even though the plaintiff was an infant.
Facts: In August 2008 a twelve year old boy fell out of a zodiac owned and operated by the defendant while participating in a rafting excursion on the Shubenacadie River. Although the boy suffered immediate personal injuries which required treatment, this action in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court was not commenced by his litigation guardian until 23 May 2013. The defendant brought this motion to strike the statement of claim on the basis that the limitation period had expired. The plaintiff argued: (1) that the Nova Scotia Limitation of Actions Act applied; (2) that the amendments made to the Marine Liability Act in 2009 exempting adventure tourism activities from the Athens Convention ought to be given retrospective effect; (3) that any limitation period ought to be postponed as the plaintiff was an infant at the time of the accident: and (4) that the "Waiver" signed by the plaintiff, which provided for Nova Scotia law, had the effect of making the claim subject to the law of Nova Scotia and not Canadian maritime law.
Decision: Order granted. The action is dismissed.
(1) Any question of the limitation period applicable to this claim is settled as being the two year limitation period in Article 16 of the Athens Convention attached as Schedule 2 to the Marine Liability Act, S.C. 2011, c.6. The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Marine Services International v Ryan Estate, 2013 SCC 44, which reframed the constitutional test for determining when provincial laws can apply to maritime matters does not undermine the rationale for the earlier decisions applying the Athens Convention to these types of claims. "The important objective of uniformity in Canadian maritime law and in the international community of maritime states should not be undermined by the application of individual, and different, provincial statutory regimes."
(2) The fact that the Marine Liability Act was amended in 2009 to exempt adventure tourism activities from the application of the Athens Convention is not relevant. Limitation periods are substantive, not procedural, and the 2009 change in the Marine Liability Act is not to be given retrospective effect. The substantive law governing this claim at the time of the injury, including the limitation period, is the Marine Liability Act as it existed at the time.
(3) Section 4 of the Nova Scotia Limitation of Actions Act, which provides for the suspension of limitation periods for claims by infants, has no application as it is not part of federal maritime law. The Athens Convention and the Marine Liability Act contain no provisions postponing limitation periods for infants and without such a provision there is no basis for the Court to do so. Further there is no general discretion to suspend or postpone the limitation period. Under the Athens Convention the two year limitation period commences to run from a fixed event, the disembarkation of the passenger, and the discoverability principle has no operation. The only provision in the Athens Convention permitting suspension or interruption of the limitation period is Art.16 s.3, which allows for a maximum extension of up to 3 years from the date of disembarkation.
(4) With respect to the "Waiver", it merely says that the laws of Nova Scotia shall apply. Nova Scotia law includes federal law. The "Waiver" incorporates rather than excludes Canadian maritime law.
Comment: It is arguable that this case is correctly decided but for the wrong reasons. Specifically, the holding that limitation provisions are always substantive and will never be given retrospective effect is questionable. As discussed in St. Jean v Cheung, 2008 ONCA 815, a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal, limitation provisions may be classified as procedural or substantive and may have retrospective application depending on their effect. The changes to the Marine Liability Act in 2009 had the effect of exempting adventure tourism activities from the two year limitation period contained in Athens Convention and substituted the three year period contained in s.140. For this action, at the time the changes to the Marine Liability Act came into force on 21 September 2009, the two year period under the Athens Convention had not expired and the effect of s. 140 was to extend the time within which the plaintiff could bring its action to August 2011. In such circumstances, under the approach discussed in St. Jean v Cheung, the amendments arguably should have been given retrospective effect and the limitation period would have expired in or about August 2011.
Substitution vs Addition of Party After Limitation Period Expiry - Applicable Limitation Period to claim by Passenger Against Repairer - s. 140 MLA - When s. 140 MLA Commences to Run
Sperling v. The Queen of Nanaimo, 2014 BCSC 326
Précis: The British Columbia Supreme Court held that a defendant could be added as a party to an existing action notwithstanding the expiry of the limitation period under s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act and where the court further held that the limitation period in s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act does not commence to run until the underlying material facts and the extent of the injury are known.
Facts: The plaintiff was injured when the ferry “Queen of Nanaimo” hit the dock at Village Bay Terminal on 3 August 2010. A malfunction in the propulsion equipment of the ferry was implicated in the cause of the accident. The plaintiff originally commenced proceedings on 2 August 2012 against the owner/operator of the ferry as well as “John Doe 1, ABC Company and John Doe 2”. The plaintiff now sought to add a number of additional companies alleging they were involved in the installation or repair of the malfunctioning equipment. The plaintiff argued the proposed parties could be substituted for “ABC Company” on the basis of correction of a misnomer in the pleading or, in the alternative, that the rules permitted the addition of the proposed parties in the circumstances. The proposed defendants challenged the motion on the basis, inter alia, that the limitation period had expired. The issues were:
1. Can the proposed parties be substituted for “ABC Company” on the basis of a misnomer in the pleading?
2. If this is not a case of misnomer, can the additional parties be added if a limitation period has intervened?
3. What is the applicable limitation period? Is it two years under the Athens Convention or three years under s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act?
4. If the Limitation period is under s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act, from what date does the limitation period commence to run and has it expired?
Decision: Motion allowed, in part.
(1) There is an important distinction between amendment applications to correct a misnomer in a pleading and applications to add a party. The correction of a misnomer is permitted notwithstanding the expiration of a limitation period after the action was originally commenced. On the other hand, where the application is to add a party, the expiration of a limitation period will be one of the factors taken into account in the court’s determination of whether it is “just and convenient” to add the new party.
The test for correcting a misnomer is whether the party is sufficiently described in the pleading as an identifiable and identified person by role, responsibility or involvement. In this case the plaintiff lumps defendants together and makes blanket allegations without meaningful distinctions. The activities described are so broad they could apply to many people. There is insufficient particularity in the pleading to point the finger at any distinct person. Therefore, this is not a case of misnomer.
(2) A new party may be added at any stage of a proceeding where it is just and convenient to do so. The existence of a limitation defence is a relevant but not a determinative factor. In this case the parties disagree as to whether a limitation defence has accrued. The proposed defendants argue that the court has no discretion to add them as parties, if the limitation period under the Marine Liability Act has accrued. The court does not agree. Even if a limitation period has accrued under the Marine Liability Act, the court still has a discretion to add parties.
(3) The limitation period of two years in art. 16 of the Athens Convention, enacted by the Marine Liability Act, applies only to “carriers” and has no application to the proposed defendants. The application of the three year limitation period in s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act is challenged by the plaintiff on the grounds that the negligent acts alleged against the proposed defendants have nothing to do with navigation and shipping. The proposed defendants, on the other hand, say that the subject matter of the claim is squarely in the domain of federal maritime negligence law and s. 140 of the Marine Liability Act therefore applies. This is a difficult issue but it need not be decided since, in any event, the discoverability issue is to be resolved in the plaintiff’s favour.
(4) The Marine Liability Act does not provide for the postponement or extension of the three year limitation period. However, the s. 140 limitation period commences on the day the cause of action arose which, pursuant to the discoverability principle, means it does not commence until the underlying material facts and the extent of injury are known. The plaintiff did not receive the investigation report identifying the malfunctioning equipment until 20 May 2011. This is the earliest date from which the limitation period could commence. Therefore, even if the three year period applies, it has not expired.
Carriage of Passengers - Application of Provincial Laws
Croisières Charlevoix Inc. v. Quebec, 2012 QCCS 1646
Précis: The court held that intra-provincial carriage of passengers was subject to provincial law.
The appellant was a shipbuilder and tourist boat operator based in La Malbaie, Quebec, with offices in Quebec City and Saint-Siméon. It primarily provided tourist excursions for watching whales and marine mammals on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. In each of 2005 and 2006, the appellant made one excursion between Quebec and Ontario. In 2007 and 2008, the appellant organized three interprovincial cruises. The appellant was found guilty and fined for having operated as a carrier of passengers by water without the permit required by ss. 36 and 74.1 of Quebec's Transport Act, R.S.Q., c. T-12, and sect. 1 of its Regulation respecting the transport of passengers by water, R.R.Q., c. T-12, r. 15. The appellant appealed to the Quebec Superior Court, arguing that its operations were within exclusive federal jurisdiction and that it was not bound by the provincial statute and regulations. The appellant also argued that its tourist excursions did not constitute "transport" within the meaning of Quebec's Transport Act. Quebec’s Transport Act applies to the "transport of persons... by... water from one place to another... by ship" . The appellant argued the Act did not apply because the tourists transported on the cruises concerned embarked and disembarked at the same "place".
Decision: Appeal dismissed and conviction upheld.
Held: The appellate Judge held that ss. 91(29) and 92(10)(a) and (b) of the Constitution Act, when read together, exclude marine transport operations carried on within the boundaries of a single province from the jurisdiction of Parliament. Where some operations of a marine carrier are carried on intraprovincially and others extraprovincially, the business becomes subject to federal legislation exclusively, but only if the extraprovincial operations are "regular and continuous” and not where such activities are merely "occasional or exceptional". The appellate Judge also rejected the appellant’s argument that the provincial Transport Act did not apply holding that the appellant’s interpretation was far too restrictive and one that would not coincide with the intention of the legislator. Moreover, the definition of “lieu” in Le Petit Robert dictionary (2000) was wide enough to include the site visited and the area travelled, as well as the points of embarkation and disembarkation.
Comment: Regrettably this decision is reported only in French. Therefore, this summary is based on a translation provided by Robert Wilkins of Borden Ladner Gervais, Montreal.
Limitation of Liability - Pleasure Craft - Collisions - Interest - Passengers
Buckley v. Buhlman, 2012 FCA 9
Précis: The Federal Court of Appeal upheld a decision of the Federal Court wherein it was determined that the limits of liability under the MLA applicable to “passengers” apply only to persons on board the ship seeking to limit liability.
The plaintiffs brought this action for limitation of liability under Part 3 of the Marine Liability Act. The plaintiffs were the owners of a fishing lodge that offered their guests the use of boats and motors. The defendants were a family of four who were guests at the lodge. During the defendants’ stay at the lodge they were involved in a collision between two of the plaintiffs’ boats. The first boat was operated by one of the plaintiffs and had two of the defendants as passengers. The second boat was operated by one of the defendants with the fourth defendant as a passenger. The defendants in the second boat were injured. The main issue in the case was whether the applicable limitation was under s. 28 or s. 29 of the MLA. At the time s. 29 applied to “passengers” of ships of less than 300 gross tons and provided a limit of liability of at least 2 million SDRs (approximately CDN$3 million). Section 28 applied to all ships of less than 300 gross tons except passenger claims under s. 29 and provided for a limit of liability of $1 million. (The limitations of Part 4 of the MLA, which implements the Athens Convention, were not applicable as the defendants were not passengers “under a contract of carriage”.) The term “passenger” is a defined term in Part 3 of the MLA and includes a person carried on board a vessel “operated for a commercial or public purpose”. The parties apparently presented arguments relating to whether the vessels were used for commercial purposes. However, at trial, the Judge pointed out that this argument was misplaced. The trial Judge noted that the two defendants who were injured were not aboard the vessel operated by one of the plaintiffs. Therefore, regardless of whether the vessels were used for a commercial purpose, the injured defendants were not passengers vis-a-vis the plaintiffs and the s. 29 limitation did not apply. Accordingly, the limitation applicable was $1 million under s. 28. The trial Judge further dealt with a subsidiary issue of whether the limitation amount included interest and costs and held that it did not. The defendants appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal arguing that the limitation should have been under s. 29.
Decision: Appeal dismissed.
Held: The appellate Court agreed that s. 29 of the MLA had no application as the injured parties were not on board the first boat. The Court noted that Art. 7 of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, from which s. 29 of the MLA is derived, favoured the interpretation that s. 29 applies only to persons on board the ship seeking to limit liability. A cross-appeal from the trial Judge’s decision that the limitation amount was exclusive of interest and costs was abandoned. The Court said this was a question to be left for another day.
Comment: This case concerns sections 28 and 29 of the Marine Liability Act but the Reasons for Judgment refer to the section numbers as they existed in 2006. This can be confusing for anyone familiar with the current numbering because the section numbers have since been transposed. What was s. 28 is now s. 29 and vice versa. To be consistent with the Reasons and to avoid adding to the confusion, I have decided to use the 2006 section numbers in this summary
Carriage of Passengers - Settlement of Class Action - Psychological Injuries
Kotai v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2010 BCSC 1180
This was an application under the B.C. Class Proceedings Act for court approval of a settlement reached between the parties relating to the sinking of the “Queen of the North” on 22 March 2006. The Court balanced the position of the class members other than the infants against the position of the public guardian and trustee, who did not support the settlement. The Court concluded that the proposed settlement was fair and reasonable, was in the best interests of the class as a whole and should be approved.
Air Carriage - Passengers - Montreal Convention - Damages for Mental Anguish
Lukacs v. United Airlines, 2009 MBCA 111
This was an application for leave to appeal a trial decision refusing general damages under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention for mental anguish and a missed opportunity resulting from a cancelled flight. The Court of Appeal denied leave on the basis that Article 19 of the Montreal Convention has been previously examined by appellate courts around the world and the law is clear that general damages for inconvenience or mental anguish are not compensable under the Montreal Convention.
Personal Injury - Psychological Injury – Passengers - Athens Convention
Kotai v. The “Queen of the North”, 2009 BCSC 1405
This was a preliminary decision in the class action arising out of the sinking of the “Queen of the North”. This decision assessed the damages of a representative sample of the plaintiffs who were passengers on the vessel at the time of the sinking. The most important aspect of the decision relates to the assessment of psychological injures allegedly suffered. The Court reviewed the authorities on psychological injury or nervous shock and ultimately held that a plaintiff must establish he or she suffered a recognized psychiatric illness to recover for psychological injury or nervous shock. Mere psychological disturbance or upset is not sufficient. The Court further held that the test was the same regardless of whether the plaintiff was actually involved in the accident or merely witnessed the accident. With this framework, the Court then evaluated the claims of six plaintiffs. The Court found that three of the plaintiffs had suffered no recognizable psychological injury. The other three plaintiffs were awarded damages of $500, $7,500 and $12,000 respectively. (It should be noted that the defendant in the case admitted that psychological injuries were recoverable under provincial law and withdrew its earlier position that such injuries were not compensable under the Athens Convention. Thus the compensability of psychological injuries under the Athens Convention was presumed and was not decided. This was clarified in supplementary reasons issued at 2009 BCSC 1604.)
Fatal Injury - Damages
McDonald v. The "Queen of the North", 2009 BCSC 1129
This was an application under the B.C. Infants Act for court approval of a settlement reached with the plaintiffs, the two surviving children of one of the passengers who died as a result of the sinking of the “Queen of the North” on 22 March 2006. The Court assessed the headings of loss of love, guidance and affection, past loss of financial support, loss of future financial support and loss of inheritance and approved the settlement as entirely fair and advantageous to the infants. The total amount of the settlement approved was $200,000.
Carriage of Passengers - Athens Convention - Jurisdiction Clause
Nicolazzo v. Princess Cruises, 2009 CanLII 28217
The plaintiffs in this matter had booked a cruise with the defendant through the plaintiff’s travel agent in Hamilton, Ontario. They embarked in Italy and disembarked in England. During the cruise $5,000 was stolen from the safe in the plaintiffs’ stateroom. The plaintiffs commenced this action to recover the stolen money. The defendant brought a motion to dismiss the claim on the basis that the court lacked territorial jurisdiction over the action. The motion was denied at first instance. On appeal, the appeal Judge held that the Athens Convention applied and that pursuant to Article 17 of the Convention the action could not be brought in Canada as the defendant had no place of business in Canada. The appeal was allowed and the action was dismissed.
Fatal Injury - Infants -
McDonald v. The "Queen of the North", 2009 BCSC 646
This was an application seeking court directions with respect to the process to be followed under the B.C. Infants Act which requires court approval of any settlement involving minors. The plaintiff requested that the hearing for court approval be held “in camera” and that the settlement not be publicly divulged. The Court noted that it had the power to do as requested but said such decisions should not be lightly made and denied the request.
Fatal Accident – Dependents Claims – Marine Liability Act - Athens Convention - Availability of Punitive and Aggravated Damages
McDonald v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2008 BCSC 1777
This is the final reported decision arising out of the sinking of the Queen of the North. The issue in this matter was whether punitive and aggravated damages are recoverable in a wrongful death action brought by dependents pursuant to the Marine Liability Act and the Athens Convention. The Court extensively reviewed the case law relating to the recovery of punitive and aggravated damages under wrongful death statutes. The Court concluded that claims under the Athens Convention and the Marine Liability Act are compensatory in nature and do not permit the recovery of punitive or exemplary damages. The Court further held that the Marine Liability Act did not permit recovery of aggravated damages. The Court also considered and declined a request by the Plaintiff to reform Canadian maritime law by permitting claims for punitive and aggravated damages in these circumstances.
Carriage of Passengers - Athens Convention - Collision - Personal Injury - Limitation of Liability
Gundersen v. Finn Marine Ltd., 2008 BCSC 1665
The Plaintiff was seriously injured when the vessel in which she was riding ran into Salt Spring Island. The vessel was a commercial water taxi and at the time of the accident it was on its way to pick up passengers. The Plaintiff, however, was not a paying passenger but was onboard as a non-paying guest. The Judge found as a fact that the incident occurred when the operator of the vessel fell asleep. The Defendants, the owner and operator of the vessel, applied for an order that they were entitled to limit their liability pursuant to Part 4 of the Marine Liability Act (“MLA”) dealing with carriage of passengers. The Plaintiff argued that the applicable limitation was found in Part 3 of the MLA, which would have been a substantially higher limitation. The Plaintiff also argued that the Defendants conduct was such that they had lost the right to limit. Dealing with the first issue the Judge agreed with the Defendants and held that the right to limit was to be found in Part 4 of the MLA and the Athens Convention. In so doing the Judge applied s.37(2) of the MLA which extends the Athens Convention “to domestic gratuitous passengers on a vessel operated for a commercial purpose”. The Judge next turned to the issue of whether the Defendants had lost the right to limit by reason that “the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier done with the intent to cause such damage, or recklessly and with knowledge that such damage would probably result”. The Judge noted that the onus of proof was on the Plaintiff, that it was a “heavy” onus, and that the reckless component required gross negligence and actual knowledge that the loss would probably result. The Judge ultimately held that the accident was not intentional, that the conduct of the operator was not gross negligence and that, in any event, the Plaintiff failed to establish that the operator knew the Plaintiff’s injuries would probably result. In result, the Defendants were entitled to limit their liability. (Note: If the vessel had been a pleasure craft being used for pleasure purposes then it is probable that Part 3 of the MLA would apply instead of Part 4.)
Ferry Sinking – Athens Convention -Fatal Accident - Juries - Severance of issues
Kotai v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2008 BCSC 1398
This was another application arising out of the sinking of the Queen of the North on 21 March 2006. This was an application by the ship owner for various relief including striking the jury notice. The ship owner argued, among other things, that the case was not appropriate for determination by a jury because the principal question in the action would be the construction of Article 13 of the Athens Convention relating to limitation of liability. The Court, however, noted that there is heavy burden to displace the plaintiff’s right to have a trial by jury and held any issues of construction could be separated from issues of fact.
Ferry Sinking - Athens Convention - Certification of Class Action
Kotai v. Queen of the North (Ship), 2007 BCSC 1056
This was an application to certify a class action on behalf of passengers (and their dependants) of the Queen of the North which sank after running into Gill Island on 21 March 2006. The Court reviewed the requirement for certifying a class action under the Class Proceedings Act of British Columbia. These are: 1. there is a cause of action; 2. there is an identifiable class; 3. there are common issues; 4. a class proceeding is the preferred procedure for the fair and efficient resolution of the common issues; and 5. there is a representative plaintiff who can fairly and adequately represent the class interest, has a workable litigation plan and is not in conflict of interest with other class members. The Court found that all of the requirements had been met except those requirements relating to a representative plaintiff. Thus the application was adjourned so an appropriate representative plaintiff could be found. (Note: This issue was later overcome and the class action was subsequently certified.)
Personal Injury - Athens Convention - Limitation Period - No Power to Extend - Applicable Law
Russell et al. v. MacKay, 2007 NBCA 55
The Plaintiff was a passenger on a whale watching vessel and was injured at sea when she tripped over a cooler while leaving the washroom on the vessel. The accident occurred on 3 August 2003 but action was not commenced until 20 July 2006. The Defendants brought this motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's claim on the grounds that it was statute-barred by the two year limitation period in the Athens Convention as enacted by the Marine Liability Act. The Plaintiff argued that the applicable limitation period was six years as provided the New Brunswick Limitation of Actions Act. Alternatively, the Plaintiff argued that the Court had the discretion to suspend or interrupt the running of the limitation period. The trial Judge concluded that the Plaintiff's claim was in pith and substance in relation to navigation and shipping and governed by federal Canadian maritime law and not the provincial limitations statute. The trial Judge then considered whether the court had a discretion to suspend or interrupt the running of the limitation period. The trial Judge referred to art. 16(3) of the Athens Convention which provides that “The law of the court seized of the case shall govern the grounds of suspension and interruption of limitation periods...”. The trial Judge held that the phrase “law of the court seized of the case” referred to Canadian maritime law and not the law of New Brunswick. The trial Judge noted that a three part test had been established to determine when an extension of a limitation period should be made under s. 572(3) of the Canada Shipping Act and that this was the appropriate test to apply. The test was: 1. did the Plaintiff have a valid prima facie case; 2. was the Defendant aware of the claim and would it suffer prejudice by an extension, other than the loss of the limitation defence; and 3. having regard to all the circumstances, was it in the best interest of justice that time be extended. Applying this test the trial Judge held it was in the best interests of justice that the limitation period be interrupted or extended.
On appeal to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial Judge that the case was to be governed by federal maritime law and further agreed that the limitation period was to be found in the Athens Convention but disagreed with respect to the powers of the court to suspend or extend the limitation period. Specifically, the Court of Appeal said that the trial Judge erred in relying upon and applying the test flowing from the old s. 572(3) of the Canada Shipping Act which dealt with collisions between ships (as does its successor in s.23 of the Marine Liability Act ) not injuries to passengers. The Court said that Art. 16 of the Athens Convention did not include any power to extend the limitation period and held that superior courts do not have inherent powers to extend limitation periods. The Court of Appeal next considered the meaning of Art. 16(3) and noted that the reference to the law of the court seized of the case did not imply such law would necessarily provide grounds for suspension or interruption. The Court held that there was no federal legislation that would provide grounds for suspension or interruption. Finally, the Court considered whether the law should be reformed to include a power to suspend or interrupt a limitation period and suggested, without deciding, that 1) waiver; (2) estoppel; (3) absence from the jurisdiction; (4) infancy; and (5) mental incompetency might be grounds. However, as the evidentiary record supported none of these grounds, the matter was not decided.
Carriage of Passengers – Jurisdiction Clause – Athens Convention
Friesen v. Norwegian Cruise Lines et al., 2003 BCSC 256
This was an application by the Defendant to stay proceedings commenced in British Columbia on the grounds of a jurisdiction clause contained in the passenger ticket. The Plaintiff, a British Columbia resident, was injured on an Alaskan cruise ship which had departed from the port of Vancouver. The Plaintiff argued that the matter was governed by the Athens Convention; Article 17 of which gave her the right to commence the proceedings in British Columbia. The Court, however, held that the Athens Convention was not applicable since Canada had not enacted the Convention at the time of the Plaintiff's accident. Moreover, the fact that the vessel was registered in the Bahamas, a signatory to the Convention, was held to not be sufficient to make Bahamian law applicable. The Court therefore held that the test set out in The Eleftheria,  2 All E.R. 641, was applicable and the onus was on the Plaintiff to establish a strong cause for not enforcing the jurisdiction clause. The Court held that the Plaintiff had met this onus in that virtually all of the witnesses resided in British Columbia and a stay of the action in favour of Florida would come close to denying the Plaintiff access to a court at all.
Failure to War
Efford v. Bundy , Victoria Registry No. 1158/92 (B.C.S.C.)
In this matter the Plaintiff was injured on board a rigid hull inflatable boat while whale watching off Tofino, British Columbia. The Plaintiff injured her back when the bow of the boat came down hard when crossing the wake of a large fishing vessel. The Plaintiff alleged the Defendant was negligent in his operation of the boat and in failing to warn of the danger. The Court found that the Defendant had operated the boat in accordance with accepted safe boating practices but it also found that the Defendant had failed to adequately warn the Plaintiff. Specifically, the Court held that it was not sufficient that the Defendant had advised the Plaintiff that the bow seat was the roughest and that people with back problems should sit further back. The Court held that the Defendant should also have instructed passengers with respect to the location of safe handholds and the way in which to brace themselves. Nevertheless, the Plaintiff was found 75% at fault because she had a prior back problem and had been warned by her doctors to avoid heavy lifting. For the full text of this decision, click here.