Australia: Supreme Cout of Queensland decides in ‘cramped’ air passenger case

The plaintiff, a general medical practitioner, claimed damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained whilst travelling on an international flight between Australia and the United States of America on 9 December 2008. He alledged that his seat did not fully recline and that the passengers seated in the row immediately in front of him kept their seats reclined the entire flight. In the leg room space that would otherwise have been fully available to the plaintiff below the seat immediately in front of him, there was positioned an audio-visual box occupying part of that space. As a result the Plaintiff‟s seat became very cramped and he was forced to contort and strain his body for lengthy periods. After about 7 hrs flight, the plaintiff began to feel pain in his lower back as well as nausea and general unwellness. His right leg began jerking uncontrollably. He made several attempts to seek help and assistance from the cabin crew but these requests were either refused or ignored.The Court found the plaintiff failed, at any time, to complain to the flight attendants of an inability to recline his seat but that he had instead placed emphasis on the seat being cramped and claustrophobic. The Court found the seat operated correctly and in accordance with its usual function and as such, concluded the events pertaining to the claim did not occur as alleged by the plaintiff. Furthermore, the Court held that the injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiff did not constitute an unusual and/or unexpected event that was external to the plaintiff, and thus did not constitute an accident within the meaning of the Montreal Convention.Full text of judgement Nguyen v Qantas Airways Limited [2013] QSC 286 available here>>.

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