Supreme Court of the United States, 2004
470 U. S., at 406
470 U. S., at 404
Summarize: In December 1997, Dr. Abid Hanson and his wife, Rubina Husain (hereinafter respondent), traveled with their children and another family from San Francisco to Athens and Cairo for a family vacation. During a stopover in New York, Dr. Hanson learned for the first time that petitioner allowed its passengers to smoke on international flights. Because Dr. Hanson had suffered from asthma and was sensitive to secondhand smoke, respondent requested and obtained seats away from the smoking section. After boarding, they discovered that their seats were only three rows in front of the smoking section. A flight attendant refused respondent's three requests to move Dr. Hanson. As the smoking noticeably increased, Dr. Hanson walked toward the front of the plane to get fresher air. He then received medical assistance but died. Respondents filed a wrongful-death suit in state court, which was removed to federal court. The District Court found petitioner liable for Dr. Hanson's death, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that, under Saks' definition of "accident," the flight attendant's refusal to reseat Dr. Hanson was clearly external to him, and unexpected and unusual in light of industry standards, Olympic policy, and the simple nature of the requested accommodation.
Issue: Whether the "accident" condition precedent to air carrier liability under Article 17 is satisfied when the carrier's unusual and unexpected refusal to assist a passenger is a link in a chain of causation resulting in a passenger's pre-existing medical condition being aggravated by exposure to a normal condition in the aircraft cabin?
Decision: Yes. The Court explained that the term "accident" in the Convention refers to an "unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger," and not to "the passenger's own internal...