Hundreds of planes stuck in Russia are at the centre of a $10 billion court battle

A $10 billion battle over more than 200 jets stuck in Russia should be heard in London rather than Moscow, London’s High Court has ruled on Thursday.

The battle is between reinsurers and aircraft leasing companies seeking payouts.

Aircraft lessors, including Ireland’s AerCap and US-listed Carlyle Aviation Partners, are pursuing insurers for losses after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grounded their jets in Russia.

The lessors argued the legal case should be heard in London rather than Moscow, to avoid the risk of unfair hearings or inconsistent judgments.

However, some major reinsurers including AIG, AXA and some Lloyd’s of London syndicates, wanted the claims heard in Russia, arguing that the policies stipulate a dispute should be heard in Moscow.

Not all reinsurers agreed – around 35 had accepted the jurisdiction of the English courts in the dispute, including heavyweights Swiss Re and Chubb.

Judge Andrew Henshaw ruled the cases should continue in London, stating in a written ruling on Thursday that “the claimants are very unlikely to obtain a fair trial in Russia”.

A spokesperson for Carlyle Aviation Partners, one of the claimants, welcomed the ruling.

“Without further delay, we intend to vigorously pursue our claims against all insurers who have failed to provide coverage for losses in the courts of London, as is the right and proper jurisdiction,” Carlyle said in a statement.

Hundreds of aircraft have been stuck in Russia since Western nations imposed sanctions on the country, prompting a wave of lawsuits against insurers.

Thursday’s judgment turned on “operator” policies, under which Russian airlines leased the jets through international lessors, insured them through Russian insurers, and reinsured those policies through the London market.

Lessors are named as insured and can therefore also claim directly in some instances.

Some lessors led by AerCap, the world’s largest, are also suing insurers under “contingent and possessed” policies in London, Dublin and some US states. A London “mega trial” is scheduled for October.

Deals with Russia, meanwhile, have started shaving the size of claims. Since launching their lawsuits, lessors have secured settlements totalling more than $2.5 billion for more than 100 jets, with ownership transferred to Russian airlines.

The various pieces of litigation in London originally related to 306 aircraft together with 40 engines. After some settlements, they now relate to 208 aircraft and 31 engines, Henshaw said in his ruling.

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