Supreme Court Allows Courts to Change Intent of International Consumer Protection Treaty
The US Supreme Court has allowed an anti-consumer 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling to stand, requiring consumers to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve protections afforded by the treaty that governs all claims against airlines arising out of international flights, reported FlyersRights.org and Travelers United, Inc. The travel groups had filed an amici brief in December with the US Supreme Court in support of international consumer protections in the Montreal Convention.
The Court declined to hear an appeal from a controversial 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 ruling which dismissed a passenger claim for personal injury, because her lawyers filed the case timely in South Africa but not in the US within 2 years.
Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights.org noted: “This decision leaves passengers with the onerous burden of having to file lawsuits in multiple countries to preserve their rights to recovery for personal injury, death, baggage or delay compensation against airlines. Passengers now face another expensive and time consuming hurdle, adding to the mountain of technical legal defenses already employed by airlines to defeat any passenger claim.”
“This US Supreme Court action undercuts the expressed intent of the Montreal Convention to make passenger claims uniform and simple, while limiting claim amounts. It is also a slap in the face of 200 other nations whose court filings will not be recognized by US courts, contrary the express intent and language of the Montreal Convention,” according to Charlie Leocha, President of Travelers United.
Johanna von Schoenebeck was injured on an international flight to San Francisco when a seat back collapsed on her neck, causing spinal injuries. After originally filing in South Africa, where the flight originated and where von Schoenebeck lived at the time, KLM Airlines waited for the two-year statute of limitations to expire before requesting a $23,000 bond for its attorney fees and suggesting that von Schoenebeck move the case to the United States. When von Schoenebeck re-filed in California, KLM immediately moved to dismiss for untimeliness, which was granted by a US District Court in San Francisco and affirmed by a split 2-1 decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
FlyersRights.org is the largest airline passenger advocacy organization. It is best known for spearheading the Passenger Bill of Rights and the rule against lengthy tarmac confinements. Flyersrights.org operates a toll-free hotline 877-FLYERS6 , publishes a weekly newsletter at www.flyersrights.org, and maintains a staffed office in Washington, D. C. It is also appealing the FAA’s refusal to issue minimum seat and leg room standards to address shrinking seat size and leg room by airlines. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Case 16-1101, FlyersRights Education Fund v. FAA) will hear oral argument on March 10th 2017.