Canadians launch lawsuits against TB-infected flyer

Several Canadians on the same flight as a tuberculosis-infected American man who sparked an international health scare launched civil lawsuits Thursday in Montreal.

Several Canadianson the same flight as a tuberculosis-infected American man who sparked an international health scare launched civil lawsuits Thursday in Montreal.

Montreal lawyer Anlac Nguyen filed the suits in Quebec Superior Court on behalf of the passengers as well as a ninth person who is related to one of the passengers but was not on the flight. Thefive Montrealers, two Ottawa residents and two Czech citizens are seeking a total of $1.4 million in damages.

Nassim Tabri said he was unable to go to work or engage in social activities while undergoing a series of tests for TB. ((CBC))
American lawyer Andrew Speaker flew from Prague to Montreal in late May despite a warning from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that he had a drug-resistant form of TB.

Speakerremains in a Denver hospital, although doctors say he is not as sick as they initially believed.

Nguyen saidnine separate civil suits were filed against Speaker. He added there could be more suits filed in the next few weeks.

Concordia graduate student Nassim Tabri, who was on the same flight as Speaker, said he first heard aboutthe potential health threaton a radio news report. Tabri said he put himself in isolation, informed Health Canada andhas been tested several timesat the Montreal Chest Institute.

With one more test to go, Tabrisaid he'll find out at the end of the month whether he has the disease.

Doctors have told him there is a one-in-1,000 chance he is infected.

TB patient Andrew Speaker, wearing a partial face mask during a Good Morning America interview last month, told the network he feels 'awful' for travelling by airplane with the disease. ((ABC News/Associated Press))
Tabri, who said he is suing Speaker for his "reckless and selfish behaviour," said the scare has changed his life.

"It was particularly stressful," he said. "I was helpless as well, because in my head at that moment I was just thinking my future goals are gone."

Tabri originally had a seat in the back of the plane, but moved to the front. His new seat assignment was 11F.Speaker sat one row behind him in 12C.

Tabri said Speaker should not have boarded the flight.

"I want justice, I want what's fair. Why should Mr. Speaker feel that his life is worth more [than] my life and the lives of the other innocent passengers on the plane?" said Tabri.

Nguyen, who represents Tabri, said his clients have suffered financial losses and continue to live with fear, stigma and isolation. He believes Speaker unnecessarily put people at risk by travelling against a doctor's orders.

"All the pain, suffering that they had to go through, all the anxiety," he said. "It's all the same as the other passengers who sat close to Mr. Speaker."

Speaker said he was never warned against travel to Europe, but once he arrived in Italy for his wedding, U.S. health officials from the Centers for Disease Control informed him he had a lethal, drug-resistant strain of TB known as XDR-TB. They advised him to turn himself in to Italian authorities.

Instead, Speaker boarded a Czech Airlines flight to Montreal with his wife anddrove across the border into the U.S.

Earlier this month, he learned he doesn't have XDR-TB and has been diagnosed with a treatable, but drug-resistant form of the disease.

A total of 29 passengers on the flight from Prague are being followed by health officials in Canada and abroad because of the risk they may have been infected.

With files from the Canadian Press