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Still Lagging Behind: Diagnosing Judicial Approaches to ‘Bodily Injury’ Claims for Psychiatric Injury under the Montreal Convention of 1999


John-Patrick Asimakis

International civil aviation is today a mature global industry, without which the modern world is unimaginable. That modern world increasingly recognises, in view of advancing medical science, that the dualist distinction between body and mind is artificial. Yet recent judicial interpretation of the term ‘bodily injury’ in the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (‘Montreal’) of 1999 has revalidated this distinction by denying compensation for psychiatric injury in the field of international civil aviation. This article challenges that interpretation by explaining the physical nature of psychiatric injury with reference to medical literature and neuroimaging technologies. It argues that the ordinary meaning of ‘bodily injury’ across Montreal’s authentic texts encompasses psychiatric injury, supporting this construction by examining both Montreal’s travaux préparatoires and its parties’ municipal jurisprudence. After briefly addressing policy concerns, it concludes that national courts may permit recovery for pure psychiatric injury under Montreal.

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(2021) 44(4) UNSWLJ 1281: