Can spilling hot tea on a plane cause a spinal injury? Which case won?
Passenger sues airline following mid-flight incident
A case heard in the NSW Supreme Court in 2015 concerned a Sydney woman who suffered a mishap in 2012 during a flight to Europe. A flight attendant accidentally spilt hot tea on the passenger, causing her to jump up and twist sharply, sustaining a spinal injury.
The passenger sued the airline for damages, claiming that the incident caused her to sustain a severe back injury, requiring surgery for disc protrusion in her lower spine and leaving her with significant ongoing pain and disability.
Was the incident an “accident” leading to the passenger’s spinal injury?
The passenger and the airline agreed only on one detail: that hot tea had been spilt on the passenger by the flight attendant. The airline disputed all other aspects of the passenger’s claim.
It was up to the court to decide whether there was an “accident” during the flight to which the bodily injury sustained by the passenger was attributable; and whether any or all of the back injury suffered by the passenger after the flight was a consequence of that accident.