Can spilling hot tea on a passenger make an airline liable? Which case won?
Passenger sues airline following mid-flight incident
A case heard in the NSW Supreme Court concerned a Sydney woman who suffered a mishap during a flight to Europe. A flight attendant accidentally spilt hot tea on the passenger, which she claimed made her jump up, twist sharply and injure her back.
The passenger sued the airline for damages, claiming that she had had to undergo surgery for disc protrusion in her lower spine after the accident and had been left with significant ongoing pain and disability.
Was the incident an “accident” leading to the passenger’s injury?
As the incident occurred during an international flight, the passenger did not have to prove negligence by the airline. Rather, she had to prove that the incident satisfied the Montreal Convention, namely that:
- An “accident” within the meaning of the Convention had occurred during the flight; and
- It had caused her “bodily injury”.
The passenger and the airline agreed there had been an accident, but the airline disputed all other aspects of the passenger’s claim. It was up to the court to decide whether the passenger had sustained the “bodily injury” claimed and whether the accident had caused that injury.