United Airlines plane accident. No casualties?

28th February 2021 by admin

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News outlets are awash with stories of the United Airlines plane that suffered a mid-air explosion in one of its engines and had to make an emergency landing at Denver Airport. Videos taken from inside the plane show the skeleton of the half-destroyed engine glowing red as if on fire.

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Fortunately the plane landed safely at Denver Airport and everyone on board survived with their lives. However it must have been a terrifying experience for the passengers and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that some of them will suffer psychological harm as a result – PTSD. But will they be able to claim compensation for this from United? As this was a domestic flight, from Denver to Hawaii, the chances are that the terms and conditions in United’s Contract of Carriage will apply and no compensation will be payable unless the passengers can prove negligence:

“[United Airlines] shall not be liable for any death, injury, delay, loss or other damage of whatsoever nature (hereafter referred to collectively as “damage”) arising out of or in connection with carriage or other services performed by UA, unless such damage is proven to have been caused by the sole negligence or willful misconduct of UA and there has been no contributory negligence on the part of the Passenger.”

If this had been an international flight then the Montreal Convention would apply and no compensation would be payable for PTSD. Caselaw from around the world confirms that compensation under the Montreal Convention can only be claimed for ‘death or bodily injury’ not for psychological harm.

The irony however is that thanks to the case of Walz v Clickair, decided by the European Court of Justice, passengers on international flights who suffer distress and disappointment because their luggage is delayed can claim compensation for this.

[February 2021]

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