Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd

PETITIONER: Eastern Airlines, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Rose Marie Floyd
LOCATION: Southern District Court of Florida

DOCKET NO.: 89-1598
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 499 US 530 (1991)
ARGUED: Oct 29, 1990
DECIDED: Apr 17, 1991
GRANTED: Jun 04, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Joel D. Eaton - on behalf of the Respondent
John Michael Murray - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

On May 5, 1983, an Eastern Airlines flight departed from Miami, bound for the Bahamas. After takeoff, one of the plane’s jet engines lost pressure. The flight crew shut down the failing engine and turned the plan around to return to Miami. The flight crew informed the passengers that the plane would be ditched in the Atlantic Ocean, but the crew managed to restart the engine and land the plane safely at Miami International Airport. A group of passengers, including Rose Marie Floyd, sued Eastern Airlines for mental distress caused by the incident. Eastern Airlines argued the engine failure and preparations for ditching the plane amounted to an accident under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention and also that Article 17 requires physical injury a condition of liability. The district court concluded than mental distress alone is not enough to receive compensation under Article 17. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed and held the language in Article 17 encompasses purely emotional distress.

Question

Does Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention, which states that an international air carrier may be held liable for injuries of a passenger, allow recovery for mental or psychic injuries unaccompanied or manifested by physical injury?

Media for Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 29, 1990 in Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 17, 1991 in Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in three cases will be announced by Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

The first one of these is Eastern Airlines versus Floyd No. 89-1598.

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention sets forth conditions for liability of international air carriers for injuries to passengers.

The question in this case is whether passengers who suffered only mental distress or emotional injury from an airplane accident can recover on Article 17.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we hold that Article 17 does not allow recovery for purely mental injuries.

We, therefore, reverse the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit.