- Russian Federation
- Sverdlovsk District Court
SERVICE CONTRACT - BETWEEN TWO RUSSIAN INDIVIDUALS - REFERENCE TO UNIDROIT PRINCIPLES TO CONFIRM THAT SOLUTION PROVIDED BY APPLICABLE DOMESTIC LA (RUSSIAN LAW) IS IN CONFORMITY WITH INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS
CONTRACT FOR KEEPING PLAINTIFF´S HORSE IN DEFENDANT´S STABLE - HORSE´S EYES INJURED BY COMBING ITS HEAD WITH STRAW BEDDING - PLAINTIFF CLAIMING DAMAGES BUT DEFENDANT INVOKES CIRCUMSTANCES OF FORCE MAJEURE - NOTION OF FORCE MAJEURE - EVENT MUST BE UNFORESEEABLE AND UNAVOIDABLE - REFERENCE TO ART. 401(3) OF RUSSIAN CIVIL CODE AND TO ART. 7.1.7 OF UNIDROIT PRINCIPLE - DEFENDANT´S EXEMPTION DENIED BECAUSE INJURY COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED IF HE HAD TAKEN ADEQUATE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES TO PROTECT HORSE´S EYES
In this case the Russian claimant filed a claim for damages for injuries inflicted to the horse which was held in the stable under the services agreement with the Russian defendant. The court of the first instance denied the claims on the ground that, inter alia, the injuries were inflicted under force majeure circumstances.
The Court of Appeal cancelled the judgment of the court of the first instance and partially recovered the damages. While reasoning its ruling the Court of Appeal referred to the applicable Russian law and additionally referred to Article 7.1.7 of the UNIDROIT Principles.
The court’s reasoning is explained below.
The defendant, individual entrepreneur IVA, performed services for storage of the horse in frames of its business activities which were aimed at gaining profit.
Thus, considering the provision of law, the aforementioned provisions of the storage contract and the specific circumstances of this case, the only ground for exempting the defendant’s liability for the injuries inflicted to the item would be the force majeure circumstances, which, however, is not applicable to the present case of inflicting harm to the horse’s eye.
By virtue of Article 7.1.7 of the UNIDROIT Principles, having the status of an intergovernmental organisation, the provisions of paragraph 3 of Article 401 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, the legal qualification of a certain circumstance as a force majeure event is possible in case the following essential requirements are met: emergency and unavoidability.
Emergency means exclusivity, something that is going beyond the ordinary conduct, certain extraordinary life events, something which does relate to common risks of living and which cannot be taken into account under any circumstances. Any event of life cannot be qualified as a force majeure, as force majeure is an extraordinary event which has objective, not subjective, basis.
Thus, force majeure events are understood as extraordinary and unavoidable circumstances, events, which come from outside and which do not depend on subjective factors: floods, natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes, avalanches, other natural disasters, as well as military actions and epidemics.
Considering that the defendant was aware of the particularities of behaviour of the animal (combing the head with the straw bedding), the injury inflicted to the claimant’s horse does not indicate the presence of force majeure circumstances, but rather indicates defendant’s failure to take all reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of harm. This is indicated by the testimony of witness 4, who confirmed that in the stable, where the horse Hendrik was kept, there were blinkers worn on the horse’s head specifically to prevent eye injuries, but they were applied only after the animal’s eye was injured.
(cf. S. Petrachkov / A. Bekker in "Perspectives in Practice of the UNIDROIT Principles 2016", IBA Publication 2019, p. 263-264)