Friday 27 April 2018

Judge refuses to award Ryanair €25k damages against pilot who quit job for health reasons

Stock photo: PA
Stock photo: PA

Ray Managh

A judge has refused to award Ryanair €25,000 damages against an Italian pilot who quit his job for health reasons 10 months after completing an expensive pilot training course.

Judge Terence O’Sullivan said he could not consider making such an award to the airline without first hearing evidence from an Italian legal expert as to whether or not Captain Luca Billetto’s entitlements under Italian law might be infringed.

Judge O’Sullivan said that although Capt Billetto was not in the Circuit Civil Court to challenge Ryanair’s €25,000 claim, a defence had been entered on his behalf by a Giovanni Borgna, Studio Legale, Milano, who had been given power of attorney to represent his interests.

Barrister Paul Twomey, counsel for Ryanair, told the court that Capt Billetto, of Via Sempione 11, Bergamo, Italy, in June 2016 had signed a contract of employment with the airline which included an agreement that should he resign his position within a period of five years he would compensate the airline for part or all of the €25,000 spent on his Boeing 737 transition training.

Mr Twomey, who appeared with McDowell Purcell Solicitors, said the contract included a clause whereby Ryanair would, by a deferred payment system, deduct €5,000 per annum from Capt Billetto’s salary over five years until the training cost would be repaid. 

He would then move up to full salary as a pilot.

He said Capt Billetto, based in Bergamo, had resigned on 14th June 2017 in the first year of his employment, only 10 months into his contract, quoting grounds of ill health. 

He had failed to meet the demand of the airline for repayment of the €25,000 training costs.

Judge O’Sullivan said that although Capt Billetto was not present it was clear from the documents in the case that his attorney Giovanni Borgna had entered a defence on his behalf in which it was claimed that the cost of the training course could not be more than €12,000 and that some money had already been repaid by way of salary reduction  to Ryanair during the 10 months of his employment.

Mr Twomey said that bringing an expert in Italian law to Dublin to give evidence would be an expensive undertaking and asked if the court would be happy to accept a sworn affidavit by an expert as to the Italian law.

Judge O’Sullivan said the Ryanair contract had been signed by Capt Billetto in Italy.  It had been mailed to him in Bergano for signing and return to Ryanair’s HQ at Airside, Swords, Co Dublin.

The only problem with an affidavit was that if further questions arose there would be no-one in court to answer them.

The judge said he had decided he would not be making an order for €25,000 damages against Capt Billetto and would be putting Ryanair’s debt collection application back into the legal list.  He would not be retaining management of the case and he did not know how another judge would deal with it regarding the matter of direct evidence or evidence on sworn affidavit.

“It is a substantial amount of money for a young man who is obviously unwell to meet and I am concerned that under Italian law he may have rights that may assist him in meeting the case,” Judge O’Sullivan said.

Judge O’Sullivan said he would prefer that Ryanair’s solicitors write to Capt Billetto informing him of the next date the airline’s application would be coming before the court and informing him also of what had taken place in court today, Friday April 13.

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