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FlyersRights, Travelers United seek reversal of Federal Appeals court decision

FlyersRights.org has joined forces with Travelers United and an aggrieved airline passenger whose personal injury claim was denied by a Federal Appeals court, the company said.

In Von Schoenebeck v. KLM, a seat back collapsed on the head of a passenger on a flight from South Africa to San Francisco, causing severe spinal injuries. The airline refused compensation, even up to the strict liability amount found in the Montreal Convention. Instead, KLM sought a bond for its own attorney fees and costs from the passenger in the South African court of over USD20,000, based on a law that discriminates against non-resident litigants.

The airline suggested the passenger litigate in the United States. But when the passenger filed in California, KLM sought and obtained dismissal based on a novel interpretation of the 2-year statute of limitations in the Montreal Convention, the treaty governing passenger rights in international air travel.

In a short 2-1 decision, the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals refused to recognize claims filed within 2 years in another country, unless also filed in a US court with 2 years. There was, however, a lengthy dissenting opinion. FlyersRights.org and Travelers United have filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of the aggrieved passenger´s appeal.

FlyersRights.org is a non-profit consumer organization in the United States representing airline passengers. The organization has with more than 40,000 members.