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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Treaty Limits TWA Case Awards

WASHINGTON -- The families of those who died on TWA Flight 800 will be able to recover no more than $75,000 in damages per victim from the airline -- only about 5 percent of the average compensation awarded in domestic air crashes -- because of an outdated global treaty governing air 4ravel between international destinations.


The liability limit for international travel, established under the 1929 Warsaw Convention, was last revised in 1966. It has been widely criticized by lawyers, aggrieved families and even the airlines themselves.


On Wednesday, a coalition of 56 carriers proposed to waive the limit in the future. The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to approve the change.


"It's outrageous and totally unfair, and Congress should have pulled out of [the treaty] a long time ago,'' said Joseph Cook, an aviation attorney from Irvine, California.


A Supreme Court ruling in January further tightened the damage limits for some kinds of crashes.


Ruling in a case that grew out of the 1983 shooting down of a Korean Airlines jet by a Soviet fighter plane, the justices said Americans can recover damages only for the family's economic losses, not for the emotional loss of a child or grandparent, for example.


"If they [deceased passengers] are not supporting you, you are out of luck. It means if your child dies, you suffered no loss,'' said Boston attorney W. Paul Needham, who represented KAL survivors in the losing effort before the high court.


"It means for the children from the high school French club [on the TWA flight], there could be no compensation.''