Man Can't Pin Heart Attack on Airline Stress
(CN) - A man who says an airline caused his heart attack does not deserve more than a $150 reimbursement for a flight-change fee, the 11th Circuit ruled.
Allan Campbell was boarding a flight from Kingston, Jamaica, to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in September 2009 when he was unexpectedly bumped from the flight and told to reschedule for a departure the next day. He claimed that Air Jamaica forced him to pay a $150 fee to change flights, refused him hotel accommodations and forced him to stay outside the airport in bad weather because of terminal repairs.
The experience allegedly caused Campbell to suffer a heart attack when he finally arrived in Florida. Campbell sought $5 million in damages under sections 17 and 19 of the Montreal Convention, a treaty containing rules for international air travel.
Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines argued that article 17, which addresses injuries to passengers while getting on or getting off the plane, does not apply.
Agreeing that Campbell failed to state claims under the Montreal Convention and that a flight delay and being bumped to another flight do not constitute an "accident" under the treaty, a federal judge in Florida dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
A three-judge panel with the 11th Circuit said there was subject-matter jurisdiction but nevertheless affirmed "on the alternated ground that Campbell failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted."
The ruling emphasizes that Campbell did not suffer the heart attack on the plane or while embarking or disembarking, as required under the treaty.
Throwing Campbell a bone, the court did find that the $150 change fee constitutes an economic loss under the Montreal Convention.
"The District Court erred in failing to acknowledge that Campbell adequately alleged economic damages in the form of the $150 change fee," Judge Stanley Marcus wrote for a three-judge panel. "The court did not mention the change free in its order, but the fee meets each of the article 19 requirements."
Caribbean Airlines ducked the claims because Campbell failed to make any direct claims against the airline in his complaint, the court found.
U.S. District Judges Scott Coogler and Dudley Bowen, sitting by designation from the Northern District of Alabama and Southern District of Georgia, respectively, rounded out the panel.