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staff reporter Lawsuits filed by air travelers suing airlines for blood clots caused by “deep- vein” thrombosis are beginning to see the light of day. A federal court in California recently denied a motion to dismiss two suits filed by passengers who allege that they suffer from air travel-induced deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), or potentially deadly blood clots, caused by sitting for long periods of time in cramped conditions. It’s only the second time such a suit has been allowed to proceed. Previous judges have rendered similar cases irrelevant under the Warsaw Convention of 1929, which governs the rules of airline’s liability. The international treaty states that an airline is only liable if a passenger suffers death, wounding or other bodily injury in an accident while on board an aircraft or during its course of operations of embarking or disembarking. Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s Frances v. Saks, 470 U.S. 392 (1985), and explained that “negligence is not a required element for recovery. One states a claim under the convention merely by alleging damages resulting from an ‘accident’ that occurred during an international flight.” The court defined “accident” as the airline’s failure to offer purportedly customary warnings, adding that there were “unexpected or unusual event[s] or happening[s] external to the passenger.” Miller v. Continental Airlines Inc., No. C-02-1693 (N.D. Calif.) and Wylie v. American Airlines Inc., No. C-02-2997 (N.D. Calif.). Mike Danko of San Mateo, Texas’ O’Reilly, Collins & Danko represents the plaintiffs, Debra Miller and Daniel Wylie, in both suits. Miller flew home to San Francisco from Paris on a plane operated by Air France and Continental after running in the Paris Marathon on April 9, 2002. Soon after, she suffered a heart attack. Doctors revived her with open heart surgery and attributed the coronary embolism to a blood clot that formed on the flight home. Fit and athletic before the flight, Miller now injects herself with blood thinners twice a day and runs the risk of complications at any time, according to Danko. Daniel Wylie, who is suing Boeing and American Airlines, was hospitalized for seven days after he developed a blood clot in his leg on a return flight from Paris to San Francisco on July 4, 2001. He has recovered from the clot, which calcified in his veins, according to Danko. This will be Danko’s first DVT case to go to trial. He has 30 more cases, some pending, but many not yet filed. After taking on Miller’s case, his first DVT-related case, he began receiving calls from all over the country from allegedly injured flyers, and lawyers who were reluctant to file DVT cases given the state of the legal precedent. Danko, a licensed pilot who specializes in aviation law, asserted that he wants to hold airlines liable for failing to warn passengers of the risks of DVT. “They tell you how to put on your seat belt; however, they don’t tell you what you don’t know-that if you fail to get up and walk around at least every hour you could develop a DVT and die,” Danko charged. He alleged that airlines don’t want people walking around in the aisles because they get in the way of flight attendants. The airlines and their defense counsel either declined to comment due to the “pending litigation” status of the cases, or did not return phone calls seeking comment. Altmann’s e-mail is [email protected].

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