Airline Liability

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Airline Liability

You may wish to consult an Edmonton Personal Injury Lawyer for greater detail, but, generally, liability of airlines for injuries to passengers is governed in Canada by The Montreal Convention, an international agreement on airline liability designed to create consistency in airline liability around the world. Canadian courts have followed this international agreement for lawsuits in Canada for injuries due to international air travel.

In order to be successful, one must get past Article 17 which holds that, “Not every identifiable incident or occurrence during a flight is an accident within the meaning of Article 17 even if the incident or occurrence gives rise to an injury.”  This is a significant hurdle which does not exist in Alberta for motor vehicle collisions and injuries.

Thus, the courts have held that air turbulence is not generally considered unexpected or unusual and up to some level of severity, it is a commonplace aspect of air travel. Therefore, a claim brought as a result of injuries sustained from light, moderate or possibly even severe turbulence will likely not succeed.

Nevertheless, in certain unusual circumstances an airline may be liable. For example, in the 2005 Air France accident at Toronto Pearson International Airport in which the pilots did not activate the reverse thrusters immediately on touchdown (in fact 12 seconds later!) the 297 passengers were successful in bringing a class-action lawsuit against Air France and recovered $20.75 million to be divided amongst the passengers. Liability was not seriously contested by Air France and the damage issues were settled reasonably promptly at $20.75 million.

Thus, in the right circumstances there certainly can be liability on an airline if it was negligent in some fashion. However, one should also note that the airline is only liable under the Montreal Convention for claims involving “bodily” injuries and not psychological injuries such as harrowing experiences, fear, distress, grief or mental anguish, which are arguably the more likely injuries in many minor airline incidents.

As an example of a lawsuit for mental distress which was dismissed a French couple from Quebec initiated legal proceedings for a lack of French language services on three separate 2009 flights between Canada and the United States on Air Canada.  They argued the Official Languages Act required French language services on the flight. The federal court in which they sued agreed and awarded damages for, “moral prejudice, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of their vacation’.

Eventually the case ended up before the Supreme Court of Canada which reversed the original decision citing the Montreal Convention which holds that damages for mental injuries, such as so-called suffering for not having French language services, are precluded by the Montreal Convention.

Bottom line: you will have to be involved in a serious airline accident resulting in bodily injury and the airline must have departed from the standard of care expected of an airline.

Contact a personal injury lawyer in Edmonton or Red Deer by contacting Handel Law Firm.


By | 2018-11-14T20:26:18+00:00 November 14th, 2018|Civil Litigation|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Brent Handel, J.D., Q.C. is the head of the Personal Injury and Fatal Accident Group at Handel Law Firm in Red Deer, Alberta.

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