John McArthur via Unsplash

Every once in a while, the Venn Diagram of Treaties overlaps a bit.  In my line of work, it’s usually the interplay of various Hague Conventions– noting that there is no such thing as “The” Hague Convention— which pertain mostly to private international law.  Lots of civil stuff in play with these, the most frequently used examples:

  • Hague Service Convention, 1965
  • Hague Evidence Convention, 1970
  • Hague Child Abduction Convention, 1980
  • Hague Adoption Convention, 1993
  • Hague Child Support Convention, 2007

There is also no such thing as “The” Montréal Convention– there are more than just one– but in common parlance in the litigation world, there’s little doubt which is in play. Officially the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, the one everybody really means was concluded in 1999 by members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to replace a prior Warsaw Convention and further harmonize the global legal regime governing air transport of people, baggage, and cargo.  (Abbreviated: MC99)

Most known for application in air emergency & disaster litigation, the Convention even applies to compensation for lost luggage (capped, of course, because airlines have great lobbyists, even in treaty negotiations).  It sets jurisdictional doctrines and lays out the responsibilities of both air carriers and the states that sign onto it.  Most notable: if something happens on a flight from Newark to Frankfurt– or vice versa— an injured party can sue in either New Jersey or the Flächenländ of Hesse.  Rather a limited validation of forum shopping.

Every once in a while, a question like this will come across my desk– and it’s not at all irrational given the complexity and breadth of MC99:

Hey, Aaron, I’m suing a foreign airline in an injury suit– what do I need to do to serve this thing in accordance with the Montréal Convention?

Quick answer: not a thing.

The simple reason why?  The 1999 Montréal Convention is mostly jurisdictional and substantive in nature– its procedural aspect doesn’t touch service.*  The Hague Service Convention is purely procedural.

In this situation, the Venn Diagrams don’t overlap… they just touch.  If Lufthansa or Korean Air are sued in Chicago or Seattle, there’s no service requirement under MC99.  Or if Delta or AA are sued in Rome or London, likewise.

Service must be effected according to Hague strictures.  Straightforward & simple.

* Understanding that jurisdiction is itself a procedural issue… but it’s special, and can arguably stand on its own as a separate discipline.