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Aircraft Accident Claims – A Slippery Issue

Simpson Millar LLP’s Holiday Accident and Injury Claims Manager, Simon Lomax, reviews judgement of Barclay v British Airways Plc [2008] EWCA Civ 1419; [2009] 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 injured her knee when she slipped whilst taking her seat onboard a British Airways flight to London – as she lowered herself into her flight seat her foot slipped on the plastic strip that covers seat wiring for the in-flight aircraft entertainment.

The Montreal Convention imposes 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, so Ms Barclay decided to claim compensation for her injury.

The Court upheld the lower courts decision that slipping on the plastic strip fixed into the floor of an aircraft was not an 'accident' for the purposes of the Montreal Convention. There was no distinct 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 this accident was simply caused by ordinary contact and interaction between herself and the aircraft in its normal and expected state and 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, such as an air steward spilling hot coffee on someone, or a falling bag from an overhead locker – the claim would have succeeded and compensation would have been awarded.

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, the court dismissed Ms Barclay’s claim.

If you have been involved in an accident onboard an airplane and would like to know more about claiming compensation then give our holiday accident team a call on:

Freephone: 0808 145 1353 or drop us a line using the form above.

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Dated: 28/04/2010

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