Time limits under international conventions are short – move swiftly or be left behind!

Warner v Scapa FlowCharters [2018] UKSC 52

Mr Warner was sadly involved in an accident on a dive charter and thereafter undertook a dive to 88 metres (far beyond the reach of most divers!). Sadly, Mr Warner encountered difficulties and could not be revived.

Claims were brought by Mr Warner’s widow on her own behalf and on behalf of their infant son. Sadly these were issued nearly 3 years after the incident and planned date of debarkation (the relevant date for a death at sea under the Athens Convention).

No appeal was brought to the Supreme Court against the strikeout of Mrs Warner’s claim; but the Inner House had allowed their son’s claim to proceed as it was extended by domestic law and within the longstop.

The Supreme Court considered carefully the ideas of “suspension” and “interruption” and took a purposive view as to what was meant by the allowance in the Athens Convention for time to be extended beyond the ordinary two year period.

Fortunately for minors the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973 – in similar terms to the Limitation Act 1980 – was found to be a domestic provision which engages that additional year and can therefore provide a further brief window to bring a claim.

Nevertheless, aviation and maritime claims are a potential minefield and should be considered very carefully.