The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that the limitation on liability in international airplane crashes is not voided when the notice is printed in the wrong type size on the ticket.
The action came in a case involving the Korean Airlines disaster of 1983 when a KAL flight was shot down by a Soviet military fighter, killing all aboard.At issue was whether the $75,000 limitation placed on awards for the death of passengers engaged in international travel can be voided by printing the information on the ticket in a smaller size than agreed to by the international accord spelled out in the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and the Montreal Agreement of 1966.
The court, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, said that while the agreements do set out the manner in which notice is to be given to passengers, they do not provide penalties for not following those rules. He said that all the international agreements require to avoid sanctions is delivery of a ticket and they make no reference to what, if any, notice is provided.
Justice William Brennan, joined by Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, concurred in the judgment but wrote separately.
Brennan said he believed the international agreements required the airlines to provide a legible notice of the rules.
"But I cannot make the leap from there to the view that KAL's 8-point notice was inadequate, as a matter of interpretation of the Warsaw Convention, simply because of the carrier's obligation under a related agreement to provide 10-point notice," he wrote.
Survivors of those who died brought suit, arguing that while the international agreements limiting liability for the airlines governed the disaster, the agreements were voided by the airlines failure to provide the notice in 10-point type on the tickets as also provided for in the agreements.
The notice on the KAL tickets were printed in 8-point type.
In other actions, the court:
-In a major victory for consumers, upheld state laws that allow those indirectly affected by illegal price-fixing to sue for monetary damages.
-Backed out of deciding the validity of a 1987 attempt by Congress to limit the president's authority to withhold classified information from it.
-Ruled unanimously that states may prosecute employers for withholding accrued vacation pay owed fired workers.