Australia: Queensland Supreme Court decides in air terminal accident case

Plaintiff, during the process of embarkation for a Jetstar flight from Brisbane to Adelaide, was directed to descend a flight of stairs within the terminal to access the tarmac for boarding. Having descended the stairs, he was unable to find an open door giving access to the tarmac and therefore began to ascend the stairs to ask Jetstar’s staff which way he should go. At the same time, a number of other passengers were descending the stairs and offered to show palintiff the way. Plaintiff turned, lost his footing and fell to the foot of the stairs, injuring himself.The claim was brought pursuant to section 28 of the Carriers’ Liability Act (which has its origins in the Warsaw Convention) and provides that “..the carrier is liable for damage sustained by reason of… any personal injury suffered by the passenger resulting from an accident which took place… in the course of any of the operations of embarking…”.Upon appeal of a decision by the Queensland District Court to dismiss an application by Jetstar to strikeout the Statement of Claim, on the basis that it had no real prospects of succeeding, the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Queensland in its judgement delivered Sep. 17, 2010, considered the definition of ‘accident’ under the Warsaw Convention and acknowledged that the primary judge had correctly identified that plaintiff would need to establish that what had happened during embarking: caused the injury he suffered; was external to him; and was objectively unusual or unexpected. The majority judgment acknowledged that, whilst plaintiff may ultimately have difficulties in proving his claim at trial, the critical issue in the case would not be capable of determination until the relevant facts were ascertained at trial and it therefore was not appropriate to strike out the pleading on the ground that it did not disclose a reasonable cause of action.Case: Brannock v Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd [2010] QCA 218Judgement avialbale for download in pdf here>>.

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