Sunday, July 10, 2005

Airline "Accident" case

The word "accident" is in quotes in the title because the meaning of that term is very important in cases against airlines. I discovered this in one of my personal injury cases. I thought I had a simple case of negligence against the airline, on a slip-and-fall. I learned that such matters are governed by the Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Agreement.

Under these rules, damages are capped at $75K and the airline is strictly liable -- if the situation qualifies as an accident. And it turns out that a 2000 decision by the Second Circuit (the federal appellate court over New York, Connecticut, and one or two other states) ruled that it counts as an accident if the "characteristics of air travel increased [the plaintiff's] vulnerability."

In our case, this appears to apply. While I don't like a cap on damages, I very much like the strict liability. Strict liability means that the plaintiff does not have to prove that the defendant airline did anything wrong.

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