U.S. Court of Appeals: violation of a government regulation no prerequisite to a claim under Article 17 Montreal Convention

After entering her assigned row on Icelandair Flight No. 656, Elin Phifer bent over, placed two carry-on bags under the seat in front of hers, stood up, and struck her head on an overhead television monitor, which was extended in the down position. Phifer collapsed and was assisted to her seat by her husband and an Icelandair flight attendant. She sued Icelandair in federal district court, alleging that Icelandair was liable for her injuries under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, which establishes that air carriers are liable for accidents that occur to passengers while they are boarding, aboard, or disembarking aircraft.The district court granted summary judgment on behalf of Icelandair because Phifer had not provided any evidence that Icelandair’s conduct had been in violation of any Federal Aviation Administrative requirements.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the judgment clarifying that a plaintiff does not have to prove that an airline violated an Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) standard to establish that there was an “accident” under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention.Case Phifer v. Icelandair (9th Cir. (Cal.) July 26, 2011); opinon available in pdf here>>; amendment to opinion available here>>.

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