Monarch Airlines Ltd v London Luton Airport Ltd [1997] CLC 698

Clarity of exclusion clauses, negligence


The Claimant airline had one of its planes damaged by a loose paving stone, while taxing on the runway of the airport operated by the Defendant. The parties’ relationship was governed by a contract which included an exemption clause excluding liability ‘… for any damage to aircraft resulting from an omission, neglect or default....’ by the Defendant.


The issue in this case was the meaning of this clause, and specifically on whether it could extend to negligence. In this instance it was a matter of clarity whether reference to “neglect” would also mean negligence within the specific legal meaning.


It was held that the wording of the clause was sufficiently clear to extend to negligence, and did indeed so extend. Use of what effectively amounted to synonyms of a term (in this case “neglect”, “omission” etc, does not mean that the court will be blind to the meaning of the words used. In this instance, the words used clearly amounted to the same thing as they would have if the word “negligence” was used, and the clause was treated as such. The court held that making such determinations ought to involve considerations of the full set of facts and context of the case.  It was held that this was the correct approach to be adopted (instead of an automatic exclusion of liability), and that this is the correct application of the third part of the test in Canada Steamship Lines v The King [1952] AC 192.