Lawsuits over deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or "economy class syndrome" have advanced in the USA at the same time as a UK court threw a significant obstacle in their path.

A US district judge in San Francisco ruled that a woman from California and a man from Arizona could seek damages against two international airlines for allegedly failing to warn them of the dangers of DVT.

The judge, Vaughn Walker, held that an injury caused by an airline's failure to provide warnings could be considered an "accident" under the Warsaw Convention. Michael Danko, the San Francisco lawyer for the two passengers, said the decision could be a precedent for other cases. Another US judge in Texas has also allowed a DVT lawsuit to proceed, Danko said. A federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed a similar case. These rulings are now on appeal.

Judge Walker explicitly held that recent DVT rulings in Australia, Germany, Canada and the UK did not apply in the US case. But he did not rule on the merits of the passengers' claims against American and Continental Airlines. According to Danko, the issue is whether a responsibility to warn passengers exists.

In early July, UK lawyers representing victims of DVT allegedly brought on by long-haul air travel lost their appeal in a case against several airlines they claimed were responsible for the onset of the condition in passengers.

They were appealing against a December 2002 judgement that the onset of the potentially fatal condition could not be classified as an accident and that the Warsaw Convention rules on airline liability could not apply. UK law firm Collins Solicitors is considering whether to take the case to a higher level, the House of Lords.

Thirty airlines and more than 50 claimants had been involved in the original lawsuit, but the appeal saw these numbers reduced to 24 claimants against 18 airlines.

Source: Airline Business