Olympic Airways v. Husain, 540 U.S. 644, 12 (2004)

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

Opinion of the Court

Saks is whether there is "an unexpected or unusual event or happening." Ibid. (emphasis added). The rejection of an explicit request for assistance would be an "event" or "happening" under the ordinary and usual definitions of these terms. See American Heritage Dictionary 635 (3d ed. 1992) ("event": "[s]omething that takes place; an occurrence"); Black's Law Dictionary 554-555 (6th ed. 1990) ("event": "Something that happens"); Webster's New International Dictionary 885 (2d ed. 1949) ("event": "The fact of taking place or occurring; occurrence" or "[t]hat which comes, arrives, or happens").9

9 The dissent cites two cases from our sister signatories England and Australia—Deep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel Group Litigation, [2004] Q. B. 234, and Qantas Ltd. v. Povey, [2003] VSCA 227, ¶ 17, 2003 WL 23000692, ¶ 17 (Dec. 23, 2003) (Ormiston, J. A.), respectively—and suggests that we should simply defer to their judgment on the matter. But our conclusion is not inconsistent with Deep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel Group Litigation, where the England and Wales Court of Appeal commented on the District Court and Court of Appeals opinions in this case, and agreed that Dr. Hanson's death had resulted from an accident. The English court reasoned: "The refusal of the flight attendant to move Dr. Hanson cannot properly be considered as mere inertia, or a non-event. It was a refusal to provide an alternative seat which formed part of a more complex incident, whereby Dr. Hanson was exposed to smoke in circumstances that can properly be described as unusual and unexpected." [2004] Q. B., at 254, ¶ 50.

To the extent that the precise reasoning used by the courts in Deep Vein Thrombosis and Air Travel Group Litigation and Povey is inconsistent with our reasoning, we reject the analysis of those cases for the reasons stated in the body of this opinion. In such a circumstance, we are hesitant to "follo[w]" the opinions of intermediate appellate courts of our sister signatories, post, at 658 (Scalia, J., dissenting). This is especially true where there are substantial factual distinctions between these cases, see [2004] Q. B., at 248, ¶ 29 (confronting allegations of a "failure to warn of the risk of [deep-vein thrombosis], or to advise on precautions which would avoid or minimise that risk"); VSCA 227, ¶ 3, 2003 WL 23000692,

¶ 3 (noting plaintiff alleged a failure to provide "any information or warning about the risk of [deep-vein thrombosis] or of any measures to reduce


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