British Airways Passengers Go to Court Over Leg Clots

The case will ask the House of Lords to rule on whether the potentially fatal blood clots linked to air travel can be considered accidents under the Warsaw Convention.


British Airways passengers who suffered deep vein thrombosis will take their claim for compensation to Britain's highest court of appeal on Wednesday.

The case - on behalf of seven British Airways passengers who either died or claim their lives were impaired after developing deep vein thrombosis, or DVT - will ask the House of Lords to rule on whether the potentially fatal blood clots linked to air travel can be considered accidents under the Warsaw Convention.

The convention covers compensation for death and injury during air travel. A ruling in favor of the claimants would lead to a class action against 18 airlines, including British Airways, Qantas, Airtours International Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Continental Airlines.

In hearings in Britain's High Court in December 2002 and the Court of Appeal in July 2003, the airlines denied liability for the condition. They successfully argued that DVT was not caused by an "unexpected or unusual event" external to the passenger - the definition of an accident under the 1929 convention.

British Airways has agreed to waive costs for the case. Usually under the British judicial system, the losing side is responsible for the legal costs incurred by the winner - a factor which can dissuade claimants from pursuing legal action.

An airline spokesman said BA was confident the House of Lords would uphold the previous decision in favor of the airlines.

Deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT, is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the deep veins of the legs. It can be fatal when part of the clot breaks off and blocks a blood vessel in the lungs. The condition has been linked to long-haul flights and other situations in which people sit still for a long time.

The British government issued an advisory in 2001 recommending passengers on long flights get up and walk around to avoid developing blood clots in their calves.


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