Olympic Airways v. Husain, 540 U.S. 644, 3 (2004)

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Opinion of the Court

Keisler, Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler, Lowell V. Stur-gill, Jr., William H. Taft IV, and Kirk K. Van Tine.*

Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention (Convention) 1 imposes liability on an air carrier for a passenger's death or bodily injury caused by an "accident" that occurred in connection with an international flight. In Air France v. Saks, 470 U. S. 392 (1985), the Court explained that the term "accident" in the Convention refers to an "unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger," and not to "the passenger's own internal reaction to the usual, normal, and expected operation of the aircraft." Id., at 405, 406. The issue we must decide is whether the "accident" condition precedent to air carrier liability under Article 17 is satisfied when the carrier's unusual and unexpected refusal to assist a passenger is a link in a chain of causation resulting in a passenger's pre-existing medical condition being aggravated by exposure to a normal condition in the aircraft cabin. We conclude that it is.


The following facts are taken from the District Court's findings, which, being unchallenged by either party, we accept as true. In December 1997, Dr. Abid Hanson and his wife, Rubina Husain (hereinafter respondent), traveled with their children and another family from San Francisco to Athens and Cairo for a family vacation. During a stopover in New York, Dr. Hanson learned for the first time that petitioner allowed its passengers to smoke on international

*Warren L. Dean, Jr., filed a brief for the Air Transport Association of America, Inc., as amicus curiae urging reversal.

1 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air, Oct. 12, 1929, 49 Stat. 3000, T. S. No. 876 (1934), note following 49 U. S. C. 40105.

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