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Lawsuit in airline passenger’s heart attack reinstated

Heart attack

A federal appeals court has reinstated litigation filed by the widow of an airline passenger who suffered a heart attack and later died after an aviation medical advisory firm failed to divert his plane.

Linda A. Baillie charged that although her husband, James D. Baillie II, progressively suffered for several hours from a heart attack while flying on British Airways, physicians working for Tempe, Arizona-based MedAire Inc. did not divert his London-Phoenix flight, according to the complaint in Linda A. Baillie et al. v. MedAire Inc. et al. MedAire had a contractual relationship with British Airways, which is not a party to the litigation.

According to the complaint, which seeks damages, MedAire physicians never recommended diversion despite three cockpit phone calls seeking their advice as Mr. Baillie’s condition worsened.

The plane trip was on March 2002 and Mr. Baillie died in July 2002 while awaiting a heart transplant, according to the complaint.

Ms. Baillie filed suit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, which granted MedAire summary judgment dismissing the case. The litigation was reinstated by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday.

“First, a reasonable jury could conclude that MedAire acted in an unusual or unexpected manner by failing to recommend that the airline divert the flight so that Mr. Baillie could receive medical attention,” said the ruling.

“Second, a reasonable jury could conclude that MedAire’s actions were a link in the causal chain that resulted in Mr. Baillie’s death,” said the ruling, in reversing the lower court’s ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings.

MedAire’s attorney had no comment, while a plaintiff attorney could not be immediately reached.


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