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Ebola crisis puts aviation firms on high alert with Hill Dickinson worning of potential liable claims

13 October 2014

Airlines should follow World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for dealing with passengers travelling from Ebola-infected areas if they are to avoid unnecessary legal action by infected passengers.

This call by Sean Gates, Consultant at the international law firm Hill Dickinson, follows news this morning that passengers arriving at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar train terminals are to be screened for Ebola.

He has strongly advised airlines to follow the WHO and the CDC guidelines and any others that may be applicable to ensure that they have no liability to passengers, regulators or third parties in other countries infected by a sick passenger. This follows the recent death of Thomas Eric Duncan at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Mr Gates warned: "If it can be proven that airlines have not complied then they may have to pay claims though they will commonly be insured up to $2bn. This would be fine for passengers but if some court in the US found the airline liable for importing the disease, and that victims were within the ambit of their duty of care, then the exposure could easily exceed the available insurance.

"It they breach regulations then there may also be penalties. There is also the commercial damage which could ensue the terms of damage to reputation."

Please note that Hill Dickinson is available to advise on handling, remediation, exposure and the extent of and responsibility of insurers.

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