Airline pays out €50,000 in pest-killer spray case
Published 09/08/2011 | 05:00
A BUSINESSMAN has been awarded €50,000 compensation after he suffered an allergic reaction to pest killer sprayed during a flight.
James Lapham is believed to be one of the first passengers in the world to successfully sue an airline over in-flight pesticides used to control pests and prevent the spread of disease.
Air France, the world's third largest airline, has agreed to pay Mr Lapham (46) of Seaview Wood, Shankill, Dublin, €50,000 in damages, the Irish Independent has learned.
Mr Lapham, an asthmatic, was returning to Dublin from Rabat in Morocco via Paris in June 2009 when Air France flight attendants sprayed permethrin in the cabin.
When Mr Lapham experienced difficulty breathing within the first 10 minutes of the flight, staff tried to assist him by applying an oxygen mask.
But the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Rabat. He was rushed by ambulance to hospital and had to be treated with steroid injections before his breathing stabilised.
He could not work abroad for eight months after the incident as he was unable to fly. He is now believed to be working in Australia, but is still receiving treatment.
Mr Lapham, an American project manager, sued the airline in the Irish High Court under the Montreal Convention, the law which governs international air travel.
The maximum compensation available to passengers under the convention is €100,000.
Permethrin is approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but banned on airplanes flying in the US because of fears it may cause cancer.
The chemical is used to protect public health, plants, animals and agriculture and more than 20 countries now require disinfection on inbound flights.
Airline industry analysts say that the Irish case will be keenly followed internationally because of widespread complaints by flight attendants about exposure to the potentially harmful effects of insecticides on long-haul flights.
"More cases will come out of the woodwork," said Bob W Mann, a New York aviation analyst. "Flight attendants have long complained about this issue and I think it has potential as a class action."
Air France defended the use of permethrin and said that the Irish legal action was the first case in several years.
"This insecticide is recommended by the WHO," said an Air France spokesperson. "There is no reason for Air France to pass judgment on these international rules."