Olympic Airways v. Husain, 540 U.S. 644, 6 (2004)

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

Opinion of the Court

Dr. Hanson, and it was unexpected and unusual in light of industry standards, Olympic policy, and the simple nature of Dr. Hanson's requested accommodation." 316 F. 3d 829, 837 (2002). We granted certiorari, 538 U. S. 1056 (2003), and now affirm.



We begin with the language of Article 17 of the Convention, which provides: 4

"The carrier shall be liable for damage sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused the damage so sustained took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking." 49 Stat. 3018.5

In Saks, the Court recognized that the text of the Convention does not define the term "accident" and that the context in which it is used is not "illuminating." 470 U. S., at 399.

4 The Warsaw Convention's governing text is in French. We cite to the official English translation of the Convention, which was before the Senate when it consented to ratification of the Convention in 1934. See 49 Stat. 3014; Air France v. Saks, 470 U. S. 392, 397 (1985).

5 After a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of liability under Article 17 by showing that the injury was caused by an "accident," the air carrier has the opportunity to prove under Article 20 that it took "all necessary measures to avoid the damage or that it was impossible for [the airline] to take such measures." 49 Stat. 3019. Thus, Article 17 creates a presumption of air carrier liability and shifts the burden to the air carrier to prove lack of negligence under Article 20. Lowenfeld & Mendel-sohn, The United States and the Warsaw Convention, 80 Harv. L. Rev. 497, 521 (1967). Article 22(1) caps the amount recoverable under Article 17 in the event of death or bodily injury, and Article 25(1) removes the cap if the damage is caused by the "wilful misconduct" of the airline or its agent, acting within the scope of his employment. See 49 Stat. 3019, 3020. Additionally, Article 21 enables an air carrier to avoid or reduce its liability if it can prove the passenger's comparative negligence. See id., at 3019.


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