International Aircraft Laws That Apply and How To Start A Lawsuit

Scalding and Other Injuries in the Air: What International Aircraft Law Applies and How Do You Start a Lawsuit?

Clients often ask what is meant by all the legal jargon in the paperwork to start their cases in court. If the claim cannot be settled, a lawsuit must be filed within the applicable legal time limit, known as “the Statute of Limitations.” In many Virginia injury cases, this time limit is 2 years.

There are several elements of an international aircraft injury case that must be contained in a Complaint (the document filed to start a lawsuit in the Federal Court). You cannot just file any case in the Federal District Courts of the United States. There must be a law that gives you permission to start litigation in these venues. The jurisdiction of the Court is invoked pursuant to 28 U.S. Code § 1391. A “Federal Question” is presented pursuant to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air done in Montreal on May 28, 1999 (the Montreal Convention).

The injured passenger must explain why this case should be heard in a Federal Court. If a lawsuit is filed in the wrong jurisdiction, it can be dismissed if a party requests the dismissal in a timely manner. This is known as the “venue” in legal terms. The venue is proper if a Defendant Airline has offices and conducts business within a judicial district as specified in 28 U.S. Code § 1391. Therefore, if an injured passenger files a lawsuit in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the airline cannot complain since most international carriers operate at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). The venue will be proper in the Judicial District according to 28 U.S. Code § 1391 if a substantial part of the events or omissions that give rise to the claim occurred in the District due to Defendant Airline’s contacts.

Almost half of the nonstop flights that run through the Washington Dulles International Airport are international.

A lawsuit must also identify the parties, where they reside, and do business. Oftentimes, the Defendant’s air carrier is a foreign corporation authorized to do business in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Doug Landau often reminds lawyers who don’t handle international aircraft injury cases that the airlines involved are “common carriers” in the business of transporting passengers by air for hire. As part of its business as a common carrier, these international airlines operate regularly scheduled flights to and from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Reagan National Airport (DCA). It is also important to include the ticketing information, as some international airlines outsource parts of their routes to other air carriers, “alliance partners”, or subsidiaries. For most Abrams Landau air injury cases, the Plaintiff’s travel originated, concluded, and was purchased in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Cases that involve Virginia residents who purchased their tickets online and traveled from Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), may have to be filed in the U.S. Federal District Court in Baltimore, Maryland.

As Lawyer Landau taught in his award-winning Constitutional Law and Civics classes, it is a Defendant’s right to have “Notice” and an “opportunity to be heard.” The Plaintiff’s allegations should include that Defendant’s international airlines employed a flight crew aboard the subject flight who were responsible for the safe and secure operation of its flights and passengers. The operator is responsible for the service, maintenance, inspection, and/or repair of the subject aircraft. The airline must ensure that the crew follows standard safety policies and protocols.

Several of Doug Landau’s International Aircraft Injury cases state:

  • “While seated aboard the subject aircraft, Plaintiff was injured as the result of an accident.”
  • “During the course of the subject flight, Plaintiff was severely burned as the result of contact with scalding hot liquid.”
  • “Plaintiff’s injuries were caused by an accident pursuant to Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, defined as an unexpected or unusual event or occurrence external to the Plaintiff, and not by Plaintiff’s own internal reaction to the normal operation of the aircraft.”
  • “As a result of this accident, Plaintiff was injured.”

The Complaint will then elaborate on these facts if:

  • – the injury(s) is permanent
  • – there is scarring
  • – surgery is needed
  • – past and future medical expenses
  • – treatment
  • – time loss from work (or other activities)
  • – physical pain
  • – inconvenience
  • – mental anguish
  • – other harms and losses

The Complaint will also note that the Defendant’s airlines (through its agents, employees, cabin crew, maintenance staff, contractors, etc.) were the cause of the accident and that the international air carrier is liable to pay full, fair and reasonable damages to Plaintiff pursuant to the Montreal Convention.

The lawyers hired by the International Airlines insurance companies will frequently plead in their answer to the Complaint, that:

  • – Their negligence did not cause or contribute to the accident and the resulting
    injuries to Plaintiff.
  • – The injuries suffered by Plaintiff were caused solely by the acts of third parties.
  • – The Plaintiff caused or contributed to her injuries.
Doug Landau admitted to the practice of law before the Federal Circuit Courts of the East Coast of the United States, from Florida to Vermont, enabling the ABRAMS LANDAU airport and flight injury team to help injured travelers from near and far.

The Complaint then concludes with a “Prayer for Relief,” which means that the Plaintiff will seek trial by jury and a monetary judgment against the International Airline to reimburse for their injuries and losses. A lawyer who is a member of the State Bar where the U.S. Federal District Court is located may sign the Pleadings and Complaint. They may also serve as a counsel for the injured international air traveler and must also be a member of the Federal Court where the case will be pending.

Doug Landau is a member of the State Bars of Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.). He covers the jurisdictions encompassing the major international airports on the East Coast of the United States. Additionally, Lawyer Landau is also a member of the U.S. Federal Circuit Courts for the 4th, 11th, 3rd, 2nd, and DC Circuits, in addition to the United States Supreme Court.

He has never had a problem appearing in any airline injury court case, unlike many lawyers who must get “local counsel” to sign the pleadings and sign off on their Motions to appear “Pro Hac Vice.” A Pro Hac Vice Motion means that an out-of-town lawyer wants to appear in a court where they are a member of the bar, and have “local counsel” help them with the case. Doug Landau has been “local counsel” for lawyers from all over the country and advised members of the bar on Montreal Convention cases.

If you, or someone you know, has been hurt on an aircraft, and there are questions about the laws
that apply, the strict court time deadlines, or where they can seek compensation, please contact us at 703–796–9055 or email