Airlines Sued Over DVT Deaths

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Aug 20, 2002
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[H1][FONT size=4]Airlines fight blood clot claims[/FONT][/H1]
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[DIV class=cnnStoryCaption][!--===========CAPTION==========--]Victims say airlines failed to warn passengers of the risks [!--===========/CAPTION=========--][/DIV][/TD][/TR]
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[P][FONT size=3][STRONG]LONDON, England [/STRONG]--[/FONT] [FONT size=3]Victims of so-called economy class syndrome have begun their fight to sue some of the world''s biggest airlines over blood clots they blame on cramped aircraft cabins. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]Fifty-six survivors and relatives of victims of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are seeking damages from 28 airlines -- including British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch and American Airlines. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The victims claim small seats and long hours in the air are to blame for the condition and say airlines failed to warn passengers of the risks, despite knowing of them for years. The airlines reject the claims. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The airlines have known for years that their passengers were exposed to injury and death, said Ruth Christoffersen, whose 28-year-old daughter Emma died of a clot on the lung after a 20-hour flight from Australia to Britain two years ago. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]They knew for more years than my daughter Emma was alive, she told Reuters news agency ahead of Tuesday''s hearing at London''s High Court. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]Three days of arguments will decide whether the claimants'' can proceed with their case. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The case will centre on an international aviation treaty -- the 1929 Warsaw Convention -- that says airlines are liable for damages only if an accident happens while a passenger is on board. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The airlines argue that deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is not an accident, and that the carrier cannot be blamed. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]Gerda Goldinger, lawyer for the claimants, said: The industry should not be able to hide behind the Warsaw Convention. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The airlines maintain DVT is not a flying disease. Sean Gates, a lawyer for the airlines, said: It is a disease which affects a large number of people with risk factors... including inactivity. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]He said people who were overweight, dehydrated or taking birth control pills might be at special risk. Anyone immobile for a long time -- hospital patients, taxi drivers and television addicts -- could be struck down. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]If their attempt to sue under the Warsaw Convention fails, DVT victims and their families argue they are entitled to pursue the suit under international human rights law. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]Both sides have said they are likely to appeal if the case goes against their interests. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]Legal moves in Britain follow similar action in Australia, where a law firm launched suits last year against KLM, British Airways and Qantas Airways and Australia''s air authority CASA for failing to warn passengers about DVT. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The World Health Organisation has launched a four-year investigation into DVT to determine its frequency and causes and to identify people at greatest risk and the best methods to prevent it. [/FONT][/P]
[P][FONT size=3]The Geneva-based group will also investigate the impact that low cabin pressure and oxygen levels may have on the condition. [/FONT][/P][!--endclickprintinclude--]
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