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Eastern Airlines Inc. Vs Floyd

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Citations: Eastern Airlines, Inc. Vs. Floyd, 499 U.S. 530 (1991)

Date of Judgement: 17/04/1991

Equivalent citations: 499 U.S. 530

Case No: No. 89-1598

Case Type: Certiorari Appeal

Petitioner/Appellant: Rose Marie Floyd

Defendant/Respondent: Eastern Airlines, Inc.

Bench: Hon’ble Justice Thurgood Marshall

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Statutes Referred:

  • Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention (1929).


  • A flight directed by Eastern Airlines, Inc. i.e. respondent from Miami to the Bahamas experienced engine failure.
  • The team let the travellers know that the plane would need to land in the sea.
  • After a time of quick drop, the team had the option to recover control of the plane and land securely.
  • The travellers were not actually harmed.
  • Floyd and different passengers sued Eastern for mental misery, under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention.
  • The Warsaw Convention was written in French, giving responsibility to “lésion corporelle“.
  • When it endorsed the Warsaw Convention, the U.S. Senate made an interpretation of the text to accommodate obligation “in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger.”
  • The local court excused the offended parties’ complaint, holding that the Warsaw Convention didn’t give alleviation to mental pain.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit switched.
  • The United States Supreme Court conceded certiorari.

Issue Involved:

  • Whether an aeroplane can’t be held obligated under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention, when a mishap has not made a traveller endure death, actual injury, or “physical manifestation” of injury?
  • Does Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention permit recuperation for simply mental injury?

Contention of Appellant:

Counsel: John Michael Murray for Rose Marie Floyd  

The counsel for appellant contended that:

  • A group of passengers on the flight suffered from mental distress.
  • Each of whom claimed damages solely for the same and brought separate actions against the carrier.
  • They are demanding compensation under the Warsaw Convention.
  • The lower courts dismissed the appeal by stating that Article 17 of Warsaw Convention is not wide enough to cover mental injury.

Contention of Respondent:

Counsel: Joel D. Eaton for Eastern Airlines, Inc.

The counsel for respondent contended that:

  • The plane landed safely and after regaining control, it survived a crash during flight between the Bahamas and Miami.
  • The passengers were not physically injured.
  • The District Court consolidated the proceedings and ruled that Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention, which stipulates the conditions under which an international air carrier may be held liable for injury to passengers, let alone recovery for mental agony is not allowed.
  • The defendant urges the court that the Warsaw Convention provides for special cause of action for injuries sustained during international air transportation.
  • The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the phrase “ lésion corporelle” in the authentic French text of Article 17 encompasses purely emotional distress.


  • Article 17 of Warsaw Convention does not allow recovery for purely mental injuries.
  • Interpreting “lésion corporelle” as “bodily injury” was steady with the arranging history of the Convention. There was no proof that the drafters or signatories of the Convention explicitly considered risk for clairvoyant injury or the significance of “lésion corporelle” A tight perusing of “lésion corporelle” as barring simply mental wounds was steady with:
    • the basic role of the contracting gatherings to the Convention, to be specific, to restrict the risk of air transporters to encourage the development of the youngster business avionics industry, and
    • The Convention’s second objective is to be specific, to build up among the signatories’ uniform standards and systems administering documentation and cases emerging out of worldwide transportation.
    • At last, such limited perusing was additionally upheld by the post-1929 lead and translations of the signatories to the Convention.
  • The issue of whether travelers can recuperate for mental wounds joined by physical wounds isn’t presented or tended to in the Convention, since respondents don’t assert actual injury or actual appearance of injury. Nor does the Court arrive at the inquiry whether the Convention gives the restrictive reason for activity for wounds supported during global air transportation, since the Court of Appeals didn’t address it and certiorari was not allowed to consider it here.

The Writ of Certiorari was not Allowed.

Ratio Decidendi:

In reaching that conclusion, the court commented:

“The unavailability of compensation for purely psychic injury in many common and civil law countries at the time of the Warsaw Conference persuades us that the signatories had no specific intent to include such a remedy in the Convention.”


The court held that Article 17 didn’t permit recuperation by passengers for mental or psychic wounds unaccompanied by actual injury or actual indication of injury, since French-English word references recommended that an appropriate interpretation of the expression “lésion corporelle” was “real injury”, and such interpretation concurred with the phrasing utilized in the two fundamental interpretations of the Convention in English.

None of the French lawful sources accessible in 1929 including enactment, legal choices, and academic composition – demonstrated that “lésion corporelle” ought to be deciphered other than as “bodily injury”. The surmising that by its structure, Article 17 doesn’t prohibit a specific classification of harms albeit conceivable was not in any case upheld.

Drafted by: Mumuksha Singh, University of Rajasthan, Five-year Law College.

Edited by: Aashima Kakkar, Associate Editor, Law Insider

Published On: November 22, 2021 at 14:50 IST