|DVT victims' families take airlines to
Wednesday November 6, 2002
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
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
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
women warned over air thrombosis risk
face thrombosis writs
in 10 long-haul travellers 'risk deep vein thrombosis'
DVT advice - UK
Department of Health
DVT advice - Bupa
DVT - Can