December 4, 2018

Clyde & Co successfully defends parent company of Alitalia in aircraft leasing dispute

Global law firm Clyde & Co has successfully defended Alitalia's parent company, Compagnia Aerea Italiana S.p.A (CAI), in the English Commercial Court in a dispute with Aircraft Purchase Fleet Limited (APFL).

The dispute related to the non-delivery of 13 Airbus aircraft which, according to APFL, CAI was bound, but refused, to take on lease between 2012 and 2015 under a framework agreement in force between them. Following a two week trial, Phillips J dismissed in its entirety the USD260 million claim for damages brought by APFL alleging renunciation of that agreement by CAI. 

The successful defence focused upon the fact that the aircraft were to be purchased directly from Airbus by APFL but that Airbus had, independently of any alleged renunciation by CAI, terminated its sale agreement with APFL and this rendered APFL incapable of performing its obligations under the framework agreement.

Phillips J concluded that APFL had "not come close" to discharging the burden of establishing that Airbus' actions in terminating its agreement with APFL were in any way influenced by CAI's stance and that CAI "has a complete defence to APFL's claim as APFL would not have been able to perform its obligations under the Framework Agreement" in any event, independently of CAI's alleged renunciation."

Rob Lawson QC, partner and chair of Clyde & Co's Aviation Global Practice Group, says: "We are pleased that the Judge agreed with our analysis of the merits of this case. This was a great team effort drawing on our market-leading expertise in conducting major aviation related commercial litigation and also in aircraft finance and leasing."

The successful defence of CAI was conducted by a team from Clyde & Co's aviation team in London including partners Patrick Slomski, Mark Bisset, Rob Ireland and Rob Lawson QC, and associates Louise High and Nicholas Harding. Counsel from 7 King's Bench Walk were Head of Chambers Gavin Kealey QC, Andrew Wales QC, Anna Gotts and Harry Wright.