Spain’s biggest airline emerged almost scot-free from a personal-injury trial in the Southern District of Florida, where a Miami jury found it just 1 percent liable for a passenger’s injuries during severe turbulence.
As a result, Iberia Lineas Aereas de España, Sociedad Anónima Operadora Co. defeated a lawsuit worth almost $1.2 million.
The passenger, Miami resident Fanny Quevedo, was 99 percent at fault, according to Wednesday’s verdict form, as she hadn’t proved Iberia caused or contributed to her injuries. Quevedo wasn’t wearing her seat belt when turbulence struck, and although jurors decided she sustained $1,175,000 in damages, they held Iberia liable for just $1,750 of that.
On the evening of May 14, 2015, Quevedo left Miami International Airport for Madrid, Spain, a connecting flight on her way to Milan, Italy. Quevedo claimed she injured her hip during that flight, when turbulence struck and a tripod fell from the overhead baggage area that another passenger had left open.
Quevedo was in too much pain to fall asleep, according to the lawsuit she filed with her husband, Carlos, in March 2017.
On the second flight — No. 3252 from Madrid to Milan — Quevedo claimed she fell asleep almost immediately. Flight attendants made their usual announcements about passenger safety and instructed everyone to wear seat belts, but Quevedo wasn’t wearing hers, according to a court order by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola in the Southern District of Florida.
When the plane began its descent, crew members scanned passengers’ laps to check for seat belts, Scola’s order said. Flight attendant Diego Rubio Sanz testified that he couldn’t see Quevedo’s seat belt buckle because the passenger was asleep with a jacket over her lap. But he claimed he looked from behind her seat and saw that both ends of the belt appeared to connect on her lap.
Sanz eventually realized the belt was unfastened during landing and got up to fasten it. But severe turbulence struck at the same time, tossing him and Quevedo to the ceiling of the plane as it shook, according to the complaint.
The airline denied responsibility, stressing that crew members had told everyone to wear seat belts, but Quevedo had failed to follow that instruction.
The lawsuit cited several surgeries Quevedo had after the accident, including operations to insert metal hardware in her back, cervical area and ankle.
In an October 2018 summary judgment, Scola ruled that Iberia was liable for the accident, but asked jurors to decide the extent of the blame.
“We’re very happy with the jury’s verdict and the effort they put in to analyze all the evidence,” Battista said. “We feel this is a tremendous outcome for the airline.”
Michael Olin of Buckner & Miles in Miami represented the Quevedos, who plan to appeal the verdict.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Olin said. “And we believe that we have some very meritorious post-trial motions.”
Read the full jury verdict:
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