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Benjamins v. British European Airways

572 F.2d 913 (1978)

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Benjamins v. British European Airways

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

572 F.2d 913 (1978)

Facts

The Warsaw Convention (the convention) governed liability for cases involving member nations and air-travel accidents. Documentation from the discussions leading up to the adoption of the convention showed that the primary goal of the convention was to protect the interests of aircraft-accident victims. Members of the convention with common-law legal systems similar to that of the United States recognized causes of action arising directly from the convention. The United States and United Kingdom were both members of the convention. The Second Circuit affirmed a district court decision holding that the convention did not create causes of action. The district court based its holding on a letter sent from the secretary of state to the president urging that the United States join the convention. The secretary of state wrote that the purpose of the convention was to create a presumption of the liability of aircraft carriers in aircraft accidents. Hilde Benjamins and her husband, Abraham Benjamins (plaintiff), were Dutch citizens living as permanent-resident aliens in California. Hilde purchased a round-trip plane ticket in Los Angeles from British European Airways (BEA) that included a flight from London to Brussels. BEA’s principal place of business was in the United Kingdom. The flight ticket involved international transportation, a United Kingdom-based airline, and a United States resident, so the convention applied. Hilde died during a crash occurring on the flight between London and Brussels. Abraham sued BEA for wrongful death under Article 17 of the convention and baggage loss under Article 18 of the convention. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that under Second Circuit precedent the convention did not create a cause of action arising under a treaty of the United States. Abraham appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lumbard, J.)

Dissent (Van Graafeiland, J.)

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