From boarding to courtroom: The high-flying drama of turbulence, tumbles, and lawsuits

From boarding to courtroom: The high-flying drama of turbulence, tumbles, and lawsuits

Air travel is often glamorized because it involves soaring through the clouds, seeing breathtaking views, and being served peanuts thousands of feet above the ground. What many people often fail to realize is that flying can also be stressful. From tight legroom to crying babies, there's enough to test even the most experienced traveler's patience. There's also turbulence — that unpredictable nemesis that can turn a smooth flight into a rollercoaster ride.

In today’s blog, we dive into the world of aviation litigation, where slip and falls at 30,000 feet can lead to million-dollar lawsuits.

A million-dollar slip-up

On a British Airways flight from London to Zurich, a Swiss businessman experienced one of many travelers’ worst nightmares: slipping and falling during a flight. The culprit: a puddle of Bailey’s liquor on the floor.

The businessman claims he suffered brain injuries from the fall, which tragically led to the closure of his office supplies company. He's suing British Airways for a whopping $7 million in damages.

Alarmingly, slip-and-fall accidents on flights aren't so unusual, and it can happen to both passengers and airline crew members. A Singapore Airlines cabin crew member recently filed a lawsuit against the airline for $1.2 million after slipping and falling on a grease patch in the galley during a flight from San Francisco to Singapore. The crew member alleges that the airline failed to address the grease spill, causing him to fall and sustain injuries.

These lawsuits raise questions about airline responsibility for the safety of everyone in the aircraft. Airlines must ensure a safe flying environment for passengers and crew. This includes properly maintaining the aircraft, warning passengers about potential turbulence, and providing adequate training to crew members on how to handle emergencies.

Can turbulence land an airline in hot water?

The legal complexities surrounding turbulence-related injuries can be substantial. A lawsuit’s outcome often hinges on whether the airline can prove it took reasonable measures to ensure passenger safety. In some cases, airlines may be able to invoke the "act of God" defense, arguing that the turbulence was an unforeseeable event beyond their control. If the airline fails to warn the passengers about turbulence or fails to maintain the aircraft properly, then the airline may be liable for damages.

Turbulence takes a tragic turn

Adding another layer of complexity to aviation litigation are cases involving fatalities. On May 22, Singapore Airlines Flight SQ321 encountered severe turbulence over Myanmar airspace. The turbulence was so sudden and extreme that the plane dropped hundreds of feet before the pilots were able to regain control and made an emergency landing in Bangkok, Thailand. More than 100 passengers were hospitalized. Tragically, a 73-year-old British male passenger died.

According to a passenger, a Singapore Airlines staff member offered money as an apology. The Montreal Convention, an international agreement governing airline liability, dictates that airlines are generally liable for passenger injuries during international flights, including those caused by turbulence. However, the amount of compensation airlines owe can vary depending on the severity of the injuries and can only be determined once an investigation is over. But insiders say the payout from Singapore Airlines could be hefty.

Staying safe in the skies

While turbulence is a reality of air travel, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of injury. Always wear your seatbelt whenever you're seated, and be sure to follow the flight attendant’s instructions. If you have any concerns about your safety, don’t hesitate to speak to a crew member.

Air travel should be a safe and enjoyable experience. However, as these lawsuits demonstrate, it can lead to serious injuries, legal disputes, and even fatalities. If you find yourself injured in flight, seek a legal expert the moment you land safely. Contact us today for family law and other legal services in Washington State.