Accidents Abroad

Damages secured for airline passengers injured and assaulted during in-flight incidents

Steward on the airplane.

Paul McClorry

Regional Director (Manchester)

5 min read time
13 Dec 2018

Hudgell Solicitors’ specialist Travel Litigation team have secured damages for two aeroplane passengers who suffered injuries in very different circumstances during international flights.

The holiday accident claims were both brought under the Montreal Convention 1999, a law which governs accidents that occur during international air travel, including damages for any injuries suffered.

In the first case, a passenger onboard a British Airways flight from Philadelphia International Airport to London Heathrow suffered tendon damage to his knee when an air stewardess mistakenly pushed a drinks trolley into his leg as she walked down the central aisle of the aircraft.

Although a relatively minor incident – and one for which the stewardess apologised – it was an accident which caused significant pain for the passenger and impacted on him for some time afterwards.

Paul McClorry, head of travel litigation at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “As a result of this accident, which happened when our client had fallen asleep around half an hour into the flight, he sustained an injury to his right knee which required medical attention.

“He was diagnosed with patella tendon damage and advised to rest. He has high blood pressure and needs to reduce it by regular exercise at the gym, but this is something he was unable to do for a significant period of time as a result of this accident.

“He continued to experience pain and discomfort for another couple of weeks so he returned to his GP who advised further rest and for our client to work from home and keep the weight off his right knee.

“When we first made representations to British Airways, close to a month after the incident, he was still on daily painkillers and reluctant to put his full weight on his leg, which was painful throughout the day.”

Mr McClorry highlighted in the holiday injury claim that the passenger had been subject to an accident which was ‘an unexpected or unusual event’ out of his control.

The airline was therefore liable for his injuries and losses under the Montreal Convention 1999, and a damages settlement was offered and accepted.

Compensation for woman injured by another passenger on aeroplane

In a second recently settled case, Hudgell Solicitors secured damages for a woman who suffered a string of modest injuries due to the actions of another passenger when flying from Banjul in Gambia to London Gatwick with Thomas Cook.

Mr McClorry said: “This case had a very unfortunate set of circumstances as it involved a young man who had a behaviour outburst and lashed out aggressively on a number of occasions throughout the flight.

“The young man was a vulnerable adult and was very much distressed himself throughout the six hour flight. Sadly, he was continuously aggressive, during which time our client suffered painful injuries.

“At one stage he spilt hot food down her bare leg and, as the flight started its descent, it was apparent he again was distressed. He started lashing out with punches, kicking our client before grabbing her necklace from the back and pulled it tight against her throat.”

As part of the legal claim against Thomas Cook, the lack of appropriate response to the situation, and to lessen the threat to the female passenger, was highlighted.

“Our client described screaming out for help and ringing the call bell at least three times repeatedly but nobody came to assist,” Mr McClorry added.

“She was trying to restrain the young man at the same time, at which point he started biting her outstretched right arm, which was bare. She managed to pull the young man back down into his seat and restrained him by putting both of her arms around him. It was only when the man was in his seat again that the flight crew came to provide any assistance.”

The legal claim alleged injuries suffered included a throat injury due to being choked with her necklace, scratches to her back, bites to her right arm, an injury to her right foot and psychological symptoms including distress from the trauma throughout the six hour flight.

‘Airline passengers have rights to expect incident free international travel’

Mr McClorry said: “These two cases were obviously very different in nature, but they each reflect an airline’s duty of care to ensure all passengers have an incident free journey.

“The Montreal Convention is in place to ensure that all is done by airlines to protect every passenger from injury, taking into account the many different scenarios faced when hundreds of people are on the same plane.

“Whilst the lady in the case with the vulnerable young man of course had sympathy and understanding of his difficulties, it was not acceptable for her to be left next to him for the duration of the flight and for her to suffer as she did.

“Airlines have to be prepared to cater for such situations and to prevent incidents like this.

“She was unable at any stage to get out, even to go to the toilet, and it was without doubt a very difficult and traumatic experience for her and we feel that the settlement which was offered and accepted was very much justified.”

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Damages secured for airline passengers injured and assaulted during in-flight incidents

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