Comments on Supreme Court Judgment Nº 901/2021 in the “Spanair Case”

Back in 2019, in our article “Judgement of the Spanish Supreme Court in the Spanair crash case”, we pointed out that the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court in its judgment of 17 May 2019 no. 1513/2019 settled the question of the evaluation of personal injuries suffered in an air accident, by confirming the criteria of the Provincial Court of Barcelona, judgment no. 165/2016, of 12 July, and determining that, in the absence of regulation for the evaluation of personal injuries caused in aviation accidents, it was more appropriate to provide compensation based on the existing legal scale for personal injuries caused in motor vehicle accidents (RDL no 8/2004, of 29 October, approving the revised text of Civil Liability and Insurance Act in the Circulation of Motor Vehicles).

However, the judgement pointed out that the indicative use of the scale does not prevent the application of corrective criteria according to the circumstances of the sector of activity to which it refers. In the case of an air accident, due to its catastrophic nature and the other circumstances surrounding it, it is reasonable that the compensation resulting from the application of the scale be increased by an additional percentage, which in this case was set at 50 %.

Now, after years of litigation arising from the very serious plane crash suffered by the now defunct airline Spanair in 2008, resulting in the death of one hundred and fifty four people and eighteen injured, the recent Judgment of the Supreme Court no. 901/2021 of 21 December 2021 dismisses the extraordinary appeal for procedural infringement and the cassation appeals against judgment no 5/2018, of 8 January, of the Provincial Court of Madrid, filed by Mapfre Global Risks Compañía Internacional de Seguros y Reaseguros S.A., among others, to confirm that, without prejudice to other possible causes, the accident occurred as a result of an inadequate configuration of the aircraft to perform this maneouver, attributable to the pilot an co-pilot of the aircraft. Likewise, the court establishes hat Mapfre is civilly liable for the damages caused by the accident, as it was the insurer of the company Spanair at the time of the accident.

Furthermore, in line with the above, Judgment no 901/2021 in its Sixth Legal Basis states that, by using as a criterion for compensation the indicative application of the scale in the annex to Legislative Royal Decree no 8/2004, of 29 October, the Provincial Court did not violate the principle of indemnity in the compensation of damages or apply limitations to compensation for death or bodily injury, incompatible with the framework of the Montreal Convention and Regulation (EC) no. 2027/1997, as amended by Regulation (EC) no. 882/2002, of 13 May 2002.

Consequently, the insurer is ordered to pay compensation, the amount of which now exceeds four million Euro.