The applicant, Patricia Chaudet, is a French national who 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. The Conseil d’Etat dismissed the appeal; 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. It rules, among other things, on the permanent nature of airline employees’ medical incapacity and takes decisions on the attribution of accidents at work.
Complaint before the ECHR
Ms. Chaudet relied essentially on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention (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.
Decision of the ECHR
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 (Martinie v. France ([GC], no 58675/00, 12 April 2006)) 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.