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No Limits on Liability for Damage to Wheelchairs

Monday, July 26, 1999
Contact: Bill Adams
Tel.: (202) 366-5580
DOT 110-99

New Rule Avoids Airline Liability Limit
For Damage to Wheelchairs

As part of the Clinton administration's ongoing efforts to ensure fair
treatment for airline
passengers with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Transportation today
said that airlines cannot limit their liability for loss or damage to
passengers' wheelchairs and other assistive devices.

"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to making our
transportation system fully inclusive of all Americans," U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Rodney E. Slater said. "This new rule ensures that
passengers with disabilities can recover burdensome repair or replacement
costs if their wheelchairs are lost or damaged in flight."

The new Department of Transportation rule makes final a proposal issued on
Feb. 17.

Previously, airlines could limit to $2,500 their liability for wheelchairs
and other devices that assist passengers with disabilities. The department
noted that while most loss or damage claims for wheelchairs are less than
$2,500, replacement costs for power wheelchairs could cost considerably
more -- over $13,000 in one case reported to the Department of

The new rule continues the department's initiative, announced by Vice
President Gore in
March, to ensure that airline passengers are treated fairly. The department
has proposed to raise from $1,250 to $2,500 the limit that airlines may
invoke on liability for lost or damaged baggage for all passengers on
domestic flights. Also last March, the Department of Transportation
required airlines and travel agents to notify passengers if their flight
involved a change of planes, as well as to disclose in writing if any part
of a flight involves code-sharing, in which a carrier other than the one
selling the ticket operates the flight.

The rule will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal