In our last post, we began looking at new U.S. security rules prohibiting airline passengers from bringing large electronic devices in their carry-on baggage. As we noted, the rules are largely aimed at addressing the threat of terrorism. Airlines, of course, have the duty to put into place security measures which comply with all federal safety regulations and which are effective at addressing threats.
Safety regulations are aimed not only at protecting passengers from terrorism, but from other criminal activity as well. An airline’s failure to abide by established safety regulations not only puts passengers at risk, but also opens up the airline to liability for harm to passengers.
When it comes to terrorist activity, airlines are not the only potentially liable party. In some cases, foreign governments may be liable for harm to passengers. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, the sovereignty ordinarily afforded to foreign governments under international law can be set aside if it can be proven that the foreign government was sponsoring terrorism at the time of the attack. In such cases, the foreign government may be held liable for civil damages to passengers, as are sought in personal injury and wrongful death litigation.
In addition, under a U.S. law enacted last September, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, U.S. courts have jurisdiction to hold foreign nations accountable for providing direct or indirect material support to terrorist organizations which cause death and injury to U.S. citizens on commercial airlines. The law applies to any civil action arising from an injury to a person, property or business on or after September 11, 2001.
Those who are harmed by terrorist activity on a commercial airline need to be aware of the protections available to them and to work with an experienced aviation law attorney to protect their rights. A skilled attorney will zealously advocate for the interests of those harmed on commercial flights, whatever the circumstances, to ensure they have the best possible chance to be fairly compensated.