Monday, February 16, 2009

Personal Injury Attorney - Injuries On, Or While Embarking Or Disembarking From, International Flights

Airline safety has been in the news a lot lately.  I had an interesting case about a year ago involving an injury that occured while the plaintiff was changing planes in New York for the second leg of an international flight.  I thought I'd share a little of what I learned.
For injuries related to international flights, the Warsaw Convention (as modified by the Montreal Convention) imposes strict liability upon Air Carriers, making them responsible for any injury that happens on board an aircraft, or while embarking or disembarking.  Article 17 of the Convention states:
The carrier shall be liable for damage sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused the damage so sustained took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.
This insurer-like liability, however, is limited to approximately $150,000 (the equivalent of 100,000 international monetary fund units, SDRs).  For injuries that exceed that amount, such as a wrongful death case, the plaintiff must prove that the airline was negligent.   Additionally, the Warsaw Convention only gives claimants two years to initiate a suit, which may be shorter than some states allow for an ordinary negligence suit. 

To determine whether an injury occured while "embarking or disembarking" an aircraft, the Second Circuit (the Federal Circuit encompassing New York and Connecticut) examines four factors – activity, location, control, and imminence of actual boarding.  The purpose of the "embarking or disembarking" language was to make clear that the convention does not apply to every accident that occurs in an airport, or every accident tangentially related to international air travel. 

* The Warsaw Convention (49 Stat. 3000, 49 U.S.C. § 1502).


Day v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 528 F.2d 31 (2d Cir. 1975).
Buonocore v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 900 F.2d 8 (2d Cir. 1990)
* King v. American Airlines284 F.3d 352 (2d Cir. 2002)
* Ehrlich v. American Airlines360 F.3d 366 (2d Cir. 2004)


* The New York Times, "Icing Played Down in Buffalo Crash," (February 16, 2009)
* ET Online, "Travis Barker Files Lawsuit Against Airline," (November 21, 2008).


New York Personal Injury Blog, "Buffalo Plane Crash Will Test New York's New Anti-Solicitation Rules," (February 13, 2009)

The Consumerits, "U.S. Airways Flight Makes Surprise Landing In The Hudson," (January 15, 2009). 

*  Video Of Hudson River Landing (January 15, 2009).

* Pilot of the Century - Belly Landing on Beach ," (May, 2008).  (a fellow law blogger posted this video several months ago; I remembered the video, and was able to find it on Youtube, but cannot remember which blog it was on).  

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