Fla. Not Proper Forum for Air France Passenger Death Suit
Aviation attorney Sarah Passeri was interviewed by Law360 about a Miami federal judge's decision to dismiss a wrongful death suit against Air France because the case should be heard in France, not Florida. In 2019, a Florida resident who required a wheelchair or walker for traveling long distances boarded a flight for Barcelona, with a stop in Paris. After arriving in Paris, she had to walk to the departure date for her connecting flight, despite being told a wheelchair would be available for her at the airport. She felt nauseous and dizzy upon boarding the plane, and her condition worsened during the flight. Eventually, she passed out, fell into a coma and died four days later.
The family subsequently filed a wrongful death suit against Air France, but the airline moved to dismiss the suit on forum non conveniens grounds. Air France also argued that it was a different company that failed to provide the woman with a wheelchair and that European Union regulations applicable in France have established that the airport authority, not the airline, is responsible for assisting passengers with limited mobility, including transporting them to connecting flights. The judge sided with Air France and dismissed the suit. Ms. Passeri explained that even though the situation involved multiple airlines in multiple countries, because the woman became ill in France, the most appropriate forum for the case was France, not Florida.
"While commercial aviation is global in nature, it does not follow [that] an airline may be subjected to any forum chosen by plaintiff around the world," she commented. "Respectfully, there are limitations in place to balance the interests of the parties. Here, the French interests prevailed given the immutable French nature of this action, including an incident that occurred in Paris and two other French entities arguably responsible."
Please note: Holland & Knight represents Air France in the case. In addition to Ms. Passeri, the Holland & Knight team includes Partners Christopher Kelly and Joshua Levenson.