Aircraft Accident Claims – A Slippery Issue
Simon Lomax, Simpson Millar LLP’s Holiday Accident and Injury Claims Manager reviews the recent judgment of Barclay v British Airways Plc  EWCA Civ 1419;  WLR(D) 1
The Court of Appeal recently had to decide whether a slip by a passenger whilst taking her seat was an ‘accident’ within the meaning of the Montreal Convention 1999.
Ms Beverley Barclay sustained an injury to her knee when she slipped attempting to take her seat onboard a British Airways flight bound for London – as she lowered herself into her flight seat her foot slipped on the plastic strip used to cover her seat’s tracking and wiring for the in-flight aircraft entertainment.
Ms Barclay claimed compensation for her injury – the Montreal Convention imposes absolute responsibility on carriers without finding any fault in respect of an accident which happens on an aircraft which causes death or bodily injury to passengers.
The Court upheld the lower courts decision that slipping on a plastic strip fixed into the floor of an aircraft was not an ‘accident’ for the purposes of the Montreal Convention. There was no distinct happening or event which was not a part of the “usual, normal and expected operation” of the aircraft which had occurred independently of anything done or not done by Ms Barclay.
Lord Justice Laws explained that Ms Barclay’s accident was simply caused by ordinary contact and interaction between herself and the aircraft in its normal and expected state – it was not an ‘accident’ within the meaning of Article 17.1 of the Montreal Convention.
Had Ms Barclay’s injury been caused by an external event that was not part of the normal operation of the aircraft – a bag falling from an overhead locker or an air steward spilling hot coffee on someone – her claim would have succeeded and compensation would have been awarded.
The Court however dismissed Ms Barclay’s claim on the grounds that there was no ‘accident’ caused by an external event to her and that no event happened independently of anything done or not done by her.
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