Terrafranca v. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd 151, F 3d 108, 3d Cir., (1998)


Caroline Terrafranca and her family were passengers on an international Virgin Atlantic flight to London, England, when the captain learned of a bomb threat against the plane.   The threat was classified as a “nonspecific warning which could be related to one or more targets but where there could be doubt as to its credibility or about the effectiveness of existing security measures.”   Nonetheless, the captain followed Virgin Atlantic’s protocol and informed the passengers of the bomb threat.   Mrs. Terrafranca became very upset and concerned about the safety of her son.   Several flight attendants attempted to calm her.   The plane landed at Heathrow Airport where the passengers safely disembarked, and where it was discovered that the bomb threat was a hoax.

Mrs. Terrafranca alleges that she was extremely upset by the ordeal.   Too frightened to return to the United States with her family as scheduled, she instead remained in London for six weeks to visit a physician and take medicine for her nerves.   She claims that she still suffers from extreme emotional distress-specifically post traumatic stress disorder complicated by anorexia.   She has a reduced appetite due to nervousness and has lost 17 pounds.   She also contends that she has lost desire to socialize with her husband and is generally unwilling to work in the family business.

Mrs. Terrafranca sued Virgin Atlantic for what she suffered from the bomb scare, and Mr. Terrafranca asserted a derivative claim for loss of consortium.   The district court granted Virgin Atlantic’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the Terrafranca’s injuries were not compensable under the Warsaw Convention.


No issues drafted yet for this case.


In sum, the text of the Warsaw Convention establishes “bodily injury” as a precondition to recovery.   The Supreme Court endorsed this translation in Floyd and held that this requirement has a distinctly physical scope.   We therefore hold that Mrs. Terrafranca must demonstrate direct, concrete, bodily injury as opposed to mere manifestation of fear or anxiety.


Taking all of Mrs. Terrafranca’s allegations as true, we find she has not suffered the requisite bodily injury.   First, she alleges post traumatic stress disorder complicated by anorexia.   Next, she alleges loss of desire to socialize with her husband and work in the family business.   Finally, Mrs. Terrafranca alleges a 17 pound weight loss, which she argues is a physical manifestation of her emotional distress.   Mrs. Terrafranca’s psychiatrist described her injuries as emotional, testifying that she feels fearful, anxious, and isolated from people.   These are purely psychic injuries that do not qualify as bodily injuries under the Warsaw Convention.  Floyd, 499 U.S. at 552, 111 S.Ct. at 1502.   The district court correctly granted summary judgment in favor of Virgin Atlantic on this basis.   We will affirm.

Useful for

Treaty provisions considered

Article 17 WC29

Warsaw Convention 1929

Legislation considered

None identified.

Key subjects or concepts

Mental Injury/