On appeal from: [2017] CSIH 13

This appeal considered whether, on a correct reading of the Athens Convention relating to the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea 1974, art 16, the Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1973, sub-section 18(3) operates as a ‘suspension or interruption’ so as to protect the claim made on behalf of the respondent’s son from being time-barred.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. The Court held that, in interpreting an international convention, national courts must look at the objective meaning of the words used and the purpose of the convention as a whole, using the travaux préparatoires as aids. The Court did not accept that the words “suspension and interruption” should have a technical meaning derived from certain civil law systems as there was no uniformity in the use of the expression “suspension” when the Athens Convention was adopted, and this would create serious anomalies. The Court therefore concluded that the words “the grounds of suspension … of limitation periods” are sufficiently wide to cover domestic rules which postpone the start of a limitation period as well as those which stop the clock after the limitation period has begun. The Court considered that the 1973 Act, s 18 postpones the expiry date of the limitation period: it instructs a court to disregard the time during which the pursuer of the action is under legal disability. In any event, the Court did not accept that postponement of the start of a limitation period falls outside an international understanding of a “suspension” of limitation periods. Therefore the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Warner’s claim as her son’s guardian is not time barred by the Athens Convention.

For judgment, please download: [2018] UKSC 52
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (28 Jun 2018 morning session)