Accidents Abroad

Court agrees compensation award for child scalded by hot drink on Ryanair flight

passenger scalded by hot drink on plane was successfully represented by hudgell solicitors

Anne Thomson

Senior Litigation Executive

7 min read time

An eight-year-old girl who was scalded by a cup of spilt tea on a Ryanair flight as she flew back to the UK with her family has been awarded damages.

Her father claimed “the nightmare” incident happened as a member of the cabin crew failed to properly secure the cup’s lid which left the child screaming out in pain when it spilt onto her legs and stomach as she sat in her seat.

Her father had to administer first aid during the flight and said airline staff did not want to accept “any responsibility” for the accident.

Ryanair denied liability and insisted the child was “the author of her own misfortune” but after a successful holiday injury claim brought by Hudgell Solicitors’ travel litigation team a court agreed the child should be awarded a flight injury compensation award of £3,500.

‘She was left sitting in the hot water’

The accident happened as the family, who lived in Essex at the time, were flying home from Venice to London’s Stanstead Airport in 2019 after what had been a surprise birthday trip.

The child was sat in the aisle seat next to her grandmother who requested a cup of tea from the cabin crew as they served drinks.

It was alleged the crew placed the hot drink on the child’s tray and when she picked it up to pass to her grandmother the lid came off and it spilt causing her to scream out in pain.

“When I heard her, I just jumped up and ran to the front of the plane where they were sitting as I was sat several rows behind, they hadn’t even tried to get her out of the seat, she was left sitting in the hot water. I took her to the toilet and splashed cold water on her,” recalled her father.

“The crew offered ice but fortunately I have done first aid courses and knew you shouldn’t put ice on a burn. She was in complete shock. I then had to change her clothes in view of the other passengers and put her in a blanket and calm her down,” he said.

Cooling pads were provided by the cabin crew, but the child’s father says it was “a horrendous experience” and he doesn’t believe the airline crew were adequately trained to deal with such incidents.

“I felt the level of care was poor, they didn’t seem to want to accept any responsibility. I would never fly with them again.”

The family claimed no further medical treatment was provided during the flight or on landing.

When they returned home the child’s burns were treated at the local GP surgery where her dressings were changed for the next five days.

Read more: In-flight Accidents and Injuries

The father says despite contacting Ryanair several times to make a complaint he decided to take legal advice.

“I contacted a couple of local solicitors in Essex, but they didn’t want to take the case, so when we contacted Hudgell Solicitors and they said ‘yes’ it was a massive deal.”

His daughter’s flight injury claim was taken up by travel litigation executive Anne Thomson. The claim was brought under the Montreal Convention which governs international air travel.

The Convention imposes a form of strict liability on airlines for personal injury during a flight or during one of the processes of embarking or disembarking at an airport.

Passengers do not have to prove fault. However, the person making a holiday accident claim for damages must establish that there has been an ‘accident’. To be a ‘qualifying accident’ under the Convention, there must be an ‘unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger’.

Read more: Know your rights if you suffer an accident on a plane

Ms Thomson, who has many years of experience bringing successful claims under The Convention, said, “This case centred on whether the lid of the cup had been properly secured by the cabin crew, and the grandmother was absolutely sure it had not been.

“We alleged the consequences of the crews’ error were that a child was injured and experienced severe pain and shock through no fault of her own.

“As for her family, to have to apply first aid to your child during a mid-flight journey and then to have to change her clothing in full view of other passengers, it was a deeply distressing episode for all of them.

“Ryanair were insistent they were not to blame. However, eventually, while maintaining a denial of liability, negotiations to settle took place.

“As the child was a minor, the Court had to approve the settlement figure agreed and I am pleased the Court did approve damages.”

Ryanair claimed the cup of hot tea was given to the grandmother and placed in the recess of her tray with the lid securely attached.

The airline also insisted that it was the grandmother who moved the cup to the child’s tray, who then knocked it, causing the contents to spill onto her.

It claimed no accident took place and said, “It is clear from our insurer’s investigation that your client was the author of her own misfortune.”

Its crew, it said, had provided immediate first aid and offered assistance on arrival in London, but this was declined.

Read more: easyJet passenger awarded damages after suitcase fell from overhead locker 

The girl’s father said the decision to pursue the accident on holiday claim was never about the money:

“We wanted the airline to accept it was at fault. It was a very traumatic experience, and they did next to nothing. No-one made sure she was ok, there was no customer care, they instantly wanted to forget about it and there was no apology.”

The father says his daughter has been left with some scarring on her stomach and is still anxious about flying. The compensation award was put into a trust fund which she can access at 18.

“Anne has been fantastic; she took the case when others wouldn’t and saw us through it. We couldn’t have done it without her,” he added.

Ms Thomson has recently brought two other successful cases involving passengers injured by hot drinks spills while on Ryanair flights.

In both cases the airline denied liability on the basis that the cause of the spillages were unknown.

However, after court proceedings were issued, one passenger was awarded £2,100 and the other £5,400.

“On behalf of all three of my clients it has been very satisfying experience to see that their injuries were finally recognised as being of no fault of their own and they received the compensation they deserved. I believed in them even though the airline denied it was not responsible,” she said.

Other types of ‘accidents’ for the purpose of the Montreal Convention are luggage falling from overhead lockers, trolleys hitting passengers and accidents on buses taking passengers from the terminal to the aircraft and vice versa.

If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident onboard an aircraft, our specialist travel solicitors may be able to help you make a no win, no fee compensation claim for the injuries and trauma you’ve suffered.

To benefit from a free, no obligation discussion about your case, contact us today.

Read more: Holiday Accident & Injury Abroad Compensation Claims

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