release issued by the Registrar
Chaudet v. France (application no. 49037/06)
DISPUTE CONCERNING A DECISION BY THE CIVIL AVIATION MEDICAL BOARD ON AIR HOSTESS’S RIGHT TO COMPENSATION FOR DISABILITY
of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing)
of the European Convention on Human Rights
concerning the proceedings before the civil aviation medical board
Violation of Article 6 § 1
concerning the presence of the Government Commissioner
at the Conseil d’Etat’s deliberations
Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court held that the finding of a violation sufficed to compensate the non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicant, and awarded her 1,500 euros for costs and expenses. (The judgment is available only in French.)
The applicant, Patricia Chaudet, is a French national who was born in 1958 and lives in La Grande Motte (France). She worked as an air hostess from 1982. Between 1997 and 2001 she suffered five work-related accidents as a result of air turbulence. She was awarded a disability pension in June 2002 (for a degree of disablement of 8%), then given disabled-worker status in April 2003. On 30 April 2003 the civil aviation medical council declared her unfit for the duties of an air hostess (without giving reasons for its decision) then, on 12 May 2004, declared her permanently unfit for such duties. On 25 October 2004 the civil aviation medical board declared that this permanent incapacity was not attributable to the airline, thus depriving the applicant of the right to receive compensation in that respect. After an unsuccessful application for review, Ms Chaudet challenged that decision before the Conseil d’Etat, considering, in particular, that insufficient reasons had been given for it. Having examined in detail her arguments of fact and law and studied the Government Commissioner’s2 submissions, the Conseil d’Etat dismissed the appeal in a judgment of 15 May 2006; it held, in particular, that sufficient reasons had been given for the disputed decision, in view of the legal requirement to respect medical confidentiality.
The civil aviation medical board is a collegial body governed by the Code of Civil Aviation. It forms part of the Ministry of Transport and is made up of doctors who are appointed by the Minister. It studies and coordinates physiological, medical, medico-social and health issues of interest to civil aviation, particularly with regard to flight personnel and passengers, and, generally, the question of health inspections. It rules, among other things, on the permanent nature of airline employees’ medical incapacity and takes decisions on the attribution of accidents at work.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
Ms Chaudet relied essentially on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing). She complained of the unfair nature of the proceedings before the civil aviation medical board, on account of the inadequacy of the reasons given for its decision, and about the fact that it had been impossible for her to have access to the case file on which the decision had been based. She also complained about the presence of the Government Commissioner at the deliberations of the bench of the Conseil d’Etat which ruled on her case. The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 30 November 2006.
Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:
Peer Lorenzen (Denmark), President,
Renate Jaeger (Germany),
Jean-Paul Costa (France),
Rait Maruste (Estonia),
Mark Villiger (Liechtenstein),
Isabelle Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco),
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), judges,
and Claudia Westerdiek, Section Registrar.
Decision of the Court
On the fairness of the proceedings before the civil aviation medical board
Ms Chaudet was entitled to have her claims examined by a tribunal which met the requirements of Article 6 § 1, since they were genuinely aimed at obtaining payment of compensation provided for by law.
The Court did not consider it necessary to examine whether the civil aviation medical board met the requirements of Article 6 § 1. In contrast, it was obliged to ensure that the Conseil d’Etat satisfied the applicant’s right to a court and to determination of the dispute by a court. In this case, the Conseil d’Etat did not have “full jurisdiction”, which would have had the effect of substituting its decision for that of the civil aviation medical board. It had nonetheless addressed all of the submissions made by the applicant, on factual and legal grounds, and assessed all of the evidence in the medical file, having regard to the conclusions of all the medical reports discussed before it by the parties.
The applicant’s case had thus been examined in compliance with the requirements of this Article and the Court concluded (unanimously) that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1.
On the presence of the Government Commissioner at the Conseil d’Etat’s deliberations
Reiterating its case-law that the presence of the Government Commissioner at the deliberations of the bench of the Conseil d’Etat, as was the situation at the time of the disputed events, was incompatible with the requirements of a fair hearing, the Court concluded (unanimously) that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1.
This press release is a document produced by the Registry. It does not bind the Court. The judgments are available on its website (http://www.echr.coe.int).
Frédéric Dolt (tel: + 33 (0)3 90 21 53 39) or
Piedimonte (tel: + 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (tel: + 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (tel: + 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (tel: + 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)
Salomon (tel: + 33 (0)3 90 21 49 79)
The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.
1 Under Article 43 of the Convention, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17 member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.
2 The Government Commissioner is a member of the court is a member of the court whose task is to present, on a wholly independent basis, the solution to the legal issue raised by the dispute which he or she deems most appropriate on the basis of the law in force.