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Joshua Rozenberg
Tuesday 20th April 2010
First Fly, then Sue

With the reopening of Britain's airports tonight, the courts can start returning to normal. But lawyers will be busier than ever as they try to find someone to sue for the cost of the shutdown.

Like everyone else, the legal system has had to make the best of it. A senior judge, stranded in Hong Kong at the weekend, had to struggle back to London as best he could. A London QC, who was trying to travel in the opposite direction, managed to have his case postponed.

Counsel have addressed courts from abroad through video links. Some meetings have been cancelled and others had to secure substitute speakers. 

What everyone is asking tonight is whether the total closure of Britain's airspace for six days was really necessary. If it was not, who was to blame for it? Did they owe a duty of care to airline customers? And did they act in a way that was negligent?

As far as I can see, there is no single organisation at whom the finger of blame can be pointed — not even the government. So I'd be surprised if legal action was successful. But the amounts at stake are so large that someone is bound to give it a go.

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About Joshua Rozenberg

Joshua Rozenberg is an independent legal commentator who presents Law in Action on BBC Radio 4.

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