Olympic Airways v. Husain, 540 U.S. 644, 2 (2004)

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Cite as: 540 U. S. 644 (2004)


that "some link in the chain was an unusual or unexpected event external to the passenger." Ibid. Pp. 649-652. (b) Petitioner does not dispute that the flight attendant's conduct was unusual or unexpected, arguing only that her conduct was irrelevant to the "accident" inquiry. Petitioner argues that ambient cigarette smoke was the relevant injury producing event. Petitioner's focus on the ambient cigarette smoke neglects the reality that multiple interrelated factual events often combine to cause a given injury. Any one of these events or happenings may be a link in the chain of causes and—so long as it is unusual or unexpected—could constitute an "accident" under Article 17. 470 U. S., at 406. The flight attendant's refusal on three separate occasions to move Dr. Hanson was a factual event that the District Court correctly found to be a "link in the chain" of causes leading to his death. Petitioner's argument that the attendant's failure to act cannot constitute an "accident" because only affirmative acts are events or happenings under Saks is also unavailing. The rejection of an explicit request for assistance would be an "event" or "happening" under these terms' ordinary and usual definitions, and other provisions of the Convention suggest that there is often no distinction between action and inaction on the ultimate liability issue, see, e. g., Art. 25. Finally, although the Ninth Circuit improperly seemed to approve of a negligence-based approach to the accident inquiry, no party disputes that court's holding that the flight attendant's conduct was "unexpected and unusual," which is the operative language under Saks and the correct Article 17 analysis. Pp. 652-657.

316 F. 3d 829, affirmed.

Thomas, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which O'Connor, J., joined as to Parts I and II, post, p. 658. Breyer, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Andrew J. Harakas argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was Diane Westwood Wilson. H. Bartow Farr III argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were Richard G. Taranto, Gerald C. Sterns, and Susie Injijian.

Barbara McDowell argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With her on the brief were Solicitor General Olson, Assistant Attorney General


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