Helicopter lessor wins UK Commercial Court summary judgment

The UK Commercial Court sided with the claimant in Iris Helicopter Leasing Limited v Elitaliana Srl [2021] 7 WLUK 499, in a claim under a lease of a Augusta Westland AW139 health and emergency services helicopter. 

The judgment is the latest in a series of decisions over the last 12 months where the Court has rejected frustration defences by aviation lessees. It demonstrates the depth of aviation expertise and case law in the Commercial Court, and the protection the Court extends to lessors.

Iris won judgment under CPR Part 24 against its lessee Elitaliana Srl and Elitaliana’s guarantor, Point Holding SpA. Iris was awarded a declaration that the lease was rightfully terminated, liquidated damages for unpaid rent, default interest, an order for delivery up of the aircraft and its legal costs, with permission to apply for consequential damages at a later date. 

Mr Justice Jacobs dismissed the defendants’ frustration defence. He held that, consistent with Salam Air SAOC v Latam Airlines Groups SA [2020] 9 WLUK 516, the terms of the lease placed the risk for what had happened on Elitaliana and if the doctrine of frustration was applied it would reverse the clear contractual allocation of that risk and produce an unjust result. He rejected Elitaliana’s argument that seizure of the helicopter by the Italian authorities frustrated the lease, concluding that Elitaliana could not rely on its own default, namely non-payment of import tax, to invoke the doctrine of frustration. 

Olivier Piot, founder and CEO of leading European helicopter lessor Nova Capital, and Camille Brunel, Partner and Head of the Asset Finance division at Rive Private Investment (equity sponsor of Iris), state:

“We are pleased that the High Court unequivocally rejected Elitaliana’s defence and granted Iris summary judgment against both defendants, on all Iris’ heads of claim. We valued the robust support provided by Hausfeld’s commercial disputes team in terminating the lease and obtaining judgment.”

Hausfeld London, led by Commercial Disputes Partner Ned Beale, acted for the successful claimant. He instructed Philip Shepherd QC for the hearing. 

Other News