Evaluating the Liability of Road Carriers in Hungarian Law with Respect to International Tendencies

Evaluating the Liability of Road Carriers in Hungarian Law with Respect to International Tendencies


András Szegedi, Széchenyi István University, Győr HUngary


The abstract deals with the interrelation between national and international rules on the liability of carriers in the light of the new Hungarian Civil Code, enacted in 2012, in force from 2014.


Evaluating the Liability of Road Carriers in Hungarian Law with Respect to International Tendencies

After over fifteen years of preliminary works, the act on the new Hungarian Civil Code passed late 2012 and came into force on 15 March, 2014 (Act V of 2013). It is a rare occassion when a new European civil code is in the works, therefore it is worth keeping an eye open on its development, also related to the rules of the contracts of carriage.

Our previous Civil Code (Act IV of 1959) clearly distinguished domestic and international transport. The Code itself applied subsidiarily, if a consignment was to be conveyed beyond the nation's borders, as the provisions of the Code could only be applied if an international treaty, convention, or regulation does not provide otherwise. Since practically all fields of international transport was covered by international treaty, convention, or regulation, our Civil Code was mostly applicable for inland matters.

Yet, the rules governing the carrier’s liability were influenced by international treaties, mainly the CMR Convention. Article 17. (2) was reflected in our previous code as the causes relieving the carrier from liability included – in other wording, but substantially – the wrongful act or neglect of the claimant, the inherent vice of the goods and through cirsumstances which the carrier could not avoid and the consequences of which he was unable to prevent. OUr previous rule was even broader as the relieving causes included an unavoidable cause outside the scope of the carrier's activity, an inherent property of the cargo, a packaging deficiency that is undetectable from the outside, loading by the consignor or unloading by the consignee, or the fact that the consignor, the consignee, or an attendant ordered by them did not proceed in a manner that can generally be expected in the particular situation.
One of the new features of the new Civil Code was that the rules on the carrier’s liability became simplified at first sight. The current rule in force states no more but that any contract term limiting or excluding the carrier’s liability shall be null and void, also if it pertains to damages caused deliberately or as a result of gross negligence. It implies, of course, that the carrier is liable for the damages occurring in the course of transportation, but includes no rules of exemptions as the CMR Convention or the previous Code.
We must emphasise, though, that the lack of specific rules does not mean that the liability of the carrier became objective and the carrier may nt be relieved from liability. Yet, there are no specific rules of contract of carriage in this field, but the general principles ont he breach of contract apply. These rules were influenced by the CISG (Vienna Convention ont he International Sale of Goods). It states that the person who causes damage to the other party by breaching the contract shall be liable for such damage. The said party shall be relieved of liability if able to prove that the damage occurred in consequence of unforeseen circumstances beyond his control, and there had been no reasonable cause to take action for preventing or mitigating the damage.

Our national legislation chose to unify the rules on breach of contract and thus narrowed the possibility of relief from liability for domestic carriers.


Association for European Transport