Qantas named in DVT case


November 06, 2002

QANTAS was today named as one of 28 airlines targeted in a class action by Britons who claim they or their families were victims of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

A total of 56 people are seeking British High Court permission to sue the airlines over the so-called economy class syndrome, in which potentially fatal blood clots can form during long periods of inactivity in cramped plane seats.

Qantas is named by three of the complainants, who hope the three-day hearing will open the way to suing the airlines for compensation.

British Airways, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, JAL and Cathay Pacific are also among the airlines named.

The hearing will focus on whether DVT can be classified as an accident under the terms of the Warsaw Convention, which applies to all commercial international passenger flights and which says compensation can only be paid for death or injury caused by an accident

DVT victims' families take airlines to court

Jeevan Vasagar
Wednesday November 6, 2002
The Guardian

Relatives of six air passengers who died of "economy class syndrome" yesterday launched a high court case blaming some of the world's leading airlines for their deaths.

The families accuse the air industry of cramming seats together and failing to warn passengers to move around during flights to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Carriers including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic face multi-million pound compensation claims.

The relatives of six travellers who died were joined in their legal action by 50 passengers who suffered deep vein thrombosis after long-haul flights.

Ruth Christoffersen, mother of Emma Christoffersen, 28, who died after flying back from Australia two years ago, said they wanted to make flying safer. "They said at the hospital, 'It might be DVT because we get a lot of this'. I couldn't believe it. How could they let passengers get on aeroplanes when people were dying?"

The court hearing, which is expected to last three days, will focus on whether airlines are liable to pay compensation under the Warsaw Convention, an international aviation treaty.

The treaty says airlines are liable for damages only if an accident happens while a passenger is on board. The airlines argue that DVT is not an accident, but a disease associated with inactivity, and say there is no "causal link" with flying.

If the claimants argue successfully that the airlines are liable under the treaty, they will be able to proceed to a full hearing at which evidence from passengers and experts will be called.

A connection between DVT and long-haul flights was first suggested in medical journals in the 1950s, but is described as "still uncertain" by the Department of Health.

It says there is some evidence that long-haul flights may increase the risk but point out that DVT is a relatively common condition and more people than ever travel by air. Sufferers develop blood clots in the deep veins of their legs. The condition is potentially fatal if the clots travel to the lungs.

The air travellers' counsel, Stuart Cakebread, told the high court yesterday that the airlines' failure to care for their passengers was responsible for the deaths.

The issue explained
05.11.2002: Deep vein thrombosis

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Useful inks
DVT advice - UK Department of Health
DVT advice - Bupa
DVT - Can I claim?

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