Passenger loses DVT fight against airlines

A man has lost a five-year fight to prove two airlines were liable for his deep-vein thrombosis.

Brian Povey, 63, flew from Sydney to London on Qantas - and back on British Airways - in a five-day period in February 2000, after which he suffered DVT and then a stroke.

He argued the cramped conditions in economy class, service of alcohol and food and lack of warnings about DVT made the airlines liable.

Mr Povey launched a claim in the Victorian Supreme Court against the airlines and the Civil

 Aviation Authority, saying the Warsaw Convention, which covers international travel, covered accidents during flights - and that included omissions regarding safety and the conditions on board.

But today the High Court ruled that he would not be able to prove his case.

The Victorian Court of Appeal struck out his claim and permanently stayed the action. Mr Povey appealed to the High Court. But the court ruled - by a
6-1 majority - that his condition was not caused by an accident and that his cause of action would fail.

The flight conditions "were not said to be unusual or unexpected in any respect", said a leading judgement by Chief Justice Murray Gleeson and Justices William Gummow, Ken Hayne and Dyson Heydon.

The airlines did not have a duty to warn of the dangers, the judges said.

The ruling said: "References to 'failure' to warn in this context are irrelevant and unhelpful ... They suggest that the only point at which some relevant warning could or should have been given is on board the aircraft.

"But if some warning was necessary or appropriate, it is not apparent why it should not have been given at a much earlier point of making arrangements to travel by air, rather than on board the aircraft.

"Further, reference to failure is unhelpful because it diverts attention from what it is that happened on board to what might have, could have, or perhaps should have happened there and why that should be so. If, as earlier indicated, it is appropriate to ask 'what happened on board?' the answer in this case is that the appellant alleges that nothing unexpected or unusual happened there."

The only dissenting judge, Michael McHugh, would have allowed the appeal in part. He said: "The failure of Qantas and British Airways to take steps that would have prevented the injury ... is not an 'accident' within the meaning of Article 17 (of the Warsaw Convention)."
from this link

Deep vein thrombosis in flight

Over recent years there have been many reports in the press about the occurrence of DVT when travelling, particularly when flying. A major study2, published in 2002, revealed evidence that compression socks, such as Scholl Flight Socks (compression level 14-17mmHg), can effectively reduce the risk of deep vein Thrombosis (DVT) on long haul flights. The study entitled LONFLIT 4 was carried out using more than 600 passengers on long haul flights from:
  • London to New York (7 8 hours).
  • London to Phoenix, Arizona (11 12 hours).

Half of the passengers took no preventative measures against DVT and the other half wore Scholl Flight Socks providing a compression level of 14-17mmHg at the ankle. The study focused only on people classed as low-to-medium risk of DVT and found that:

  • more than 4% of those not wearing Flight Socks suffered from some form of thrombosis during the flight to Phoenix.
  • more than 3% of those not wearing Flight Socks suffered from some form of thrombosis during the flight to New York.
  • The incidence of thrombosis among those wearing Scholl Flight Socks was zero.

The study also found clear evidence that wearing Scholl Flight Socks prevented oedema, which is believed to be a cause of DVT through veins being compressed. The research found that the level of oedema (swelling) in passengers' legs wearing Scholl Flight Socks was approximately three times lower than in those passengers who did not take any preventative measures. For more information about Scholl Flight Socks, visit

  1. Prandoni P et al. Below-knee elastic compression stockings to prevent post-thrombotic syndrome. A randomised, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 2004; 141: 249-256.
  2. Belcaro, G et al. Prevention of edema, flight microangiopathy and venous thrombosis in long flights with elastic stockings. A Randomized Trial. The LONFLIT 4 Concorde Edema-SSL study Angiology 2002; 52(5): 635-645