Prüller-Frey: The CJEU on Direct action provided for by national law against the civil-liability insurer

Case-law on Rome II (the law applicable to non-contractual obligations) is only slowly picking up so almost anything coming out of the CJEU is met with excitement. Like Ergo Insurance (so far only the AG’s Opinion), C-240/14 Prüller-Frey concerns insurance contracts. In this case, direct action against an insurer, by the victim of an air traffic accident.

The victim sues in Austria, on the basis of Article 6 or, alternatively, 11 of the Brussels I Regulation (old: Regulation 44/2001). Applicability or not of the Montreal Convention (for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air) and the EU’s implementation of same, is less relevant for this posting. At stake was mostly Article 18 of the Rome II Regulation, which reads

The person having suffered damage may bring his or her claim directly against the insurer of the person liable to provide compensation if the law applicable to the non-contractual obligation or the law applicable to the insurance contract so provides.

The lex contractus is German law. This was so chosen by the insured, Norbert Brodnig, and the insurance company, Axa Versicherung AG. German law does not provide for such direct action. But Spanish law, the lex locus damni (which applies between Prüller-Frey and Brodnig), does. The insurance company calls upon the absence of the action in German law, to reject Prüller-Frey’s action. Szpunar AG and the CJEU itself simply point to the clear language of Article 18: this is not a conflict of laws rule that determines the law applicable between victim and insurer: the insurance company’s obligations will continue to be subject to the lex contractus. Article 18 is simply an alternative connecting factor for the very possibility of direct action against the insurer. Spanish law is the law applicable to the non-contractual obligation and if Spanish law allows for such direct action, then that is enough for there to be one.

Geert.

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