A recent interesting decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union concerned the liability or otherwise of an airline for harm caused to a passenger due to the spilling of coffee during a flight. The case was filed by a young girl who was seeking compensation on account of scalding that she suffered when hot coffee tipped over on a flight for reasons which were unknown.

The airline claimed that it was not responsible since the accident was not one within the meaning of the Montreal Convention which governs the liability of airlines in the event of accidents.   It argued that there had to be the consequence of the materialisation of a hazard typically associated with flight. It was not certain whether the scalding was a result of a defect in the folding tray or the vibration of the aircraft.

The Court was asked to clarify the concept of “accident” within the meaning of the Montreal Convention.  It noted that the Convention lays down a system of strict liability for airlines while maintaining an “equitable balance of interests”.

The conclusion of the Court was that the concept of “accident” as well as the objectives of the Montreal Convention exclude basing the liability of airlines on the condition that the damage is due to the materialisation of a hazard typically associated with aviation or to there being a connection between the “accident” and the operation or movement of the aircraft. 

It decided that the concept of “accident” covers all instances on board an aircraft where an object used to serve passengers causes bodily injury to a passenger without the necessity of examining whether the situation was a result of a hazard typically associated with aviation.

Iuris Advocates can assist you in cases of claims associated with passenger rights. For additional information you are invited to contact our offices and speak directly to one of the lawyers in our team.