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Damages awarded after airline ‘flat-bed’ malfunctions
A woman who was left with a permanent back injury after her British Airways ‘flat-bed’ seat malfunctioned and sprung upwards into her back has been awarded over £44,000 in compensation.
Katherine Allen, head of the Travel and International Litigation department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said her client was a ‘New Club World’ business class passenger on a flight returning from the United States when the incident occurred.
“Shortly after take-off my client put her seat into its ‘flat-bed’ position so that she could get some sleep,” said Katherine, a partner with the firm. “About two-and-a-half hours into the six hour flight, she was woken with a violent jolt and immediately felt a jarring pain around her neck and lower back.”
Thinking it was turbulence, the woman in her forties sat upright and discovered that her flat-bed seat had jack-knifed upwards in the middle. Instead of lying flat, the two parts of the seat were both raised, protruding where they met in the middle.
“When a flight steward tried pushing the bed down it refused to click into place and returned to its jack-knifed position,” said Katherine. “The steward confirmed that the seat was broken but as there were no other spare seats available, the woman - who was in considerable pain along her spine, neck and shoulder areas - took painkillers and was forced to remain lying uncomfortably in her broken seat for the rest of the flight.”
After returning to the UK, the woman telephoned British Airway’s customer services and reported the incident. “She was asked to write a letter explaining the details, to which she received no reply,” said Katherine. “When she telephoned a second time she was asked to report the circumstances to the airline’s legal department, at which point she instructed solicitors.
“Under UK law, airlines are strictly liable under the Montreal Convention for any injuries sustained by a passenger in the event of an accident - within the meaning specified in the Convention - that takes place on board their aircraft,” said Katherine. “The faulty seat has caused my client many months of persistent and acute pain as well as restricted movement around her neck, lower back and coccyx. She has suffered numerous severe muscle spasms that have led to her needing several bouts of specialist chiropractic treatment, acupuncture and intensive physiotherapy.
“The kind of injury and treatment my client received at the hands of an airline of this size and reputation was very far from what their passengers have come to expect,” said Katherine. “The debilitating pain she has had to endure as a consequence of her injury has dramatically altered her previously fit and active life. She is now unable to exercise as she once did and she has had to give up going to the gym as well as cycling, golf, skiing and yoga. She has had to take a significant amount of time off work and she has now had to reduce her time in the office. She still suffers painfully with permanent lower back symptoms, she cannot sit comfortably for any length of time and she will continue to require treatment for her injury.”
British Airways denied liability for the woman’s injuries. But at a liability trial on 19 May 2011, Judge Simon Freeland QC ruled that the airline should be held to account.
In May 2011, Katherine successfully negotiated a settlement of just over £44,000 on behalf of her client which took into consideration the treatment she has already received as well as any further care she will likely need in the future.
How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to holiday accidents.
If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.
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