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Deep-vein thrombosis cases continue to create legal turbulence for airlines. A California lawyer is trying to consolidate pretrial proceedings for all DVT cases in the United States before the multidistrict litigation panel in Baltimore, MDL Docket No. 1606 (D. Md.). DVT, also known as “economy class syndrome,” is blood clots allegedly caused by immobilization and cramped spaces during lengthy flights. It kills around 2,000 people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several airlines have started to warn travelers about DVT. Mike Danko, the attorney attempting to consolidate the cases, currently represents around 80 DVT plaintiffs. He asserts that DVT litigation will grow. “Because of an increased awareness . . . the potential is thousands of cases,” said Danko of San Mateo, Calif.’s O’Reilly, Collins & Danko. In the recent argument before the MDL panel, Danko alleged that some airlines have known about the dangers and concealed it from their customers. Airline defendants argued that the cases have individual facts, Danko said. An attorney for Delta, Richard Grotch of Coddington, Hicks & Danforth in Redwood City, Calif., did not return phone calls. Kymberly Speer of Livingston Law Firm in Walnut Creek, Calif., who is representing Continental, declined comment. Charles L. Coleman III of Holland & Knight’s San Francisco office, who is representing Air France, also did not return phone calls seeking comment. All three are currently defending DVT cases against Danko. Danko believes a Feb. 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Olympic Airways v. Husain, 124 S. Ct. 1221, supports his stance. The provisions of the Warsaw Convention “suggest that an air carrier’s inaction can be the basis for liability,” the majority opinion stated. Danko claimed that the airlines’ failure to warn constitutes an inaction and subjects the airlines to liability. “It really gave an endorsement to the theories that we’ve been making,” he said. Danko asserted that he is the only lawyer to reach a settlement in a DVT case, Reynolds v. American Airlines, No. 48-195414-02 (N.D. Texas). The settlement, reached on Dec. 9, 2002, remains confidential. Several courts have agreed to hear a number of DVT suits, including Blansett v. Continental Airlines, No. G-02-061 (S.D. Texas). The plaintiff’s lawyer in Blansett, Truett Akin of Clark, Depew & Tracey in Houston, is unsure of the future of DVT litigation in the United States. “The floodgates haven’t opened,” Akin said. “I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to what causes DVT. It’s not completely evident that DVT is caused by flying.” The highest courts in both the United Kingdom and Australia have agreed to hear cases involving flight-induced DVT: Air Travel Group Litigation, No. HQ01X04522 (C.A., Civil Div.) and Povey v. Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Others, No. 7223 (Victoria [state] Sup. Ct.), respectively.

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