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Sat, Jul 05, 2003 - Page 12 News List

US court will allow blood-clot suits against airlines

SUDDEN DANGER The recent ruling in a California court will require airlines to properly warn customers of the risks associated with sitting in cramped seats

REUTERS , SAN FRANCISCO

Workers on the Boeing 767 assembly line work on a passenger jet destined for All Nippon Airways in Japan, Thursday, in Everett, Washington. Despite the fact that airlines are increasingly coming under fire for the health risks associated with deep-vein thrombosis, no airline is yet planning to reconfigure its aircraft to provide roomier seats.

PHOTO: AP

Airlines that fail to warn travelers that cramped legroom could be dangerous to their health may face lawsuits, thanks to a US federal court ruling in San Francisco, a plaintiffs' attorney said on Thursday.

US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that a California woman and an Arizona man could seek damages in separate lawsuits alleging three airlines did not warn them of dangers from deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot condition also called "economy class syndrome."

In London a British court earlier on Thursday delivered a setback to 24 victims of deep vein thrombosis by barring them from suing some of the world's biggest airlines, including British Airways Plc, Europe's largest airline, Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd and US carrier Northwest Airlines Corp.

A judge rejected an appeal of a High Court decision last December that struck down an attempt to sue more than 25 airlines.

A lawyer for one of the claimants said they would take their case to the House of Lords, England's highest court.

A court in Australia is set to make its own decision in a similar case at the end of the month. The cases come amid difficult times for airlines, which are reeling from a downturn in long-distance and business travel.

San Mateo, California, attorney Michael Danko, who represented the plaintiffs in the San Francisco case, said airlines should warn passengers that blood clots formed in cramped legs on long-distance flights can cause heart attacks and strokes.

"The risks of a blood clot go up astronomically after a flight of five hours or more," Danko told reporters.

"Short of redesigning seats and providing more room, airlines should tell people to get up and actually walk around -- not exercise in seats -- every hour and drink more water than they would otherwise be comfortable drinking, and completely avoid alcohol, which dehydrates the body," Danko said.

Danko's clients claim long-distance, coach-class flights harmed their health and that their carriers did not warn them of the dangers of sitting in place for too long.

Debra Miller of Oakland, California claims she suffered a heart attack in April 2001 after traveling on Air France and Continental Airlines flights to San Francisco from Paris.

Daniel Wylie of Anthem, Arizona, claims he developed a blood clot in his right leg after a July 2001 flight to San Francisco from Paris on American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp.

Attorneys representing Air France, American Airlines and Continental Airlines were not immediately available to comment on the lawsuits.

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