South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Airline Not Liable for Blood Clot Suffered by International Air Passenger
Description Appeals court held that a stroke suffered by an international airline passenger that was likely worsened by hours of sitting and the cabin pressure did not qualify as an accident under the international treaty that governs airline liability for accidents.
Topic International Law
Key Words Warsaw Convention; Airlines; Accident; Medical Problem
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Blansett flew from Houston to London on Continental Airlines. During the flight, he suffered deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The likelihood of such an injury is heightened on long flights due to sitting for hours and cabin pressure. Blansett suffered a cerebral stoke from a blood clot that left him permanently disabled. He sued Continental, contending it violated the Warsaw Convention that holds airlines responsible for injuries to passengers on international flights where an injury results from an "accident." The district court refused to dismiss the suit. Continental appealed.

Reversed and remanded. The failure of the airline to warn passengers of the possibility of DVT was not a failure under the Warsaw Convention to avoid "unusual or unexpected events" and did not qualify as an "accident." While some other airlines did make greater efforts to inform passengers of the possibilities of DVT, the fact that Continental did not does not subject the airline to liability for an accident covered by the treaty. No jury may be permitted to find that Continental could be liable in this case, so it will be dismissed.

Citation Blansett v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 379 F.3d 177 (5th Cir., 2004)

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