(Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM)
‘Tis the season for cramped airplanes—and lawsuits.
Luggage falling on heads and hot tea spilling in laps are just some of the routine incidents on today’s flights that sometimes end up in injury suits. Plaintiffs lawyers say it’s only getting worse, particularly as airlines aim to put more people on board with less room.
“The airlines are shrinking the inside of the cabin, pushing people together and increasing stress and causing an environment where there’s a potential for injury and problems,” said Timothy Loranger, a shareholder at Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman.
Airlines have a heightened duty to protect passengers from injuries that occur on the plane, though they generally are shielded from liability involving accidents caused by turbulence or a belligerent passenger. But that depends on whether either could have been reasonably foreseen.
Some of the latest claims include sexual assault by another passenger. The problem received notice earlier this year after a woman accused President-elect Donald Trump of groping her on a flight decades ago.
Here’s a quick look at some of the most recent and notable suits filed this year:
1. The parents of a 13-year-old sued American Airlines for $10 million after an intoxicated passenger on a flight from Dallas to Portland, Oregon, sexually assaulted their daughter, who was seated next to him unaccompanied.
2. Three women represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred sued Spirit Airlines after several passengers seated in front of them on a flight to Los Angeles from Baltimore became intoxicated, blared loud music and shouted racial remarks, ultimately leading to a physical fight on the aircraft.
3. The mother of a 5-year-old boy traveling unaccompanied from the Dominican Republic sued JetBlue after airline officials put the child on a flight to Boston instead of New York. The case settled confidentially this month.
4. A woman on a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Dallas sued American Airlines after she was injured when a “burning substance” from a leaking oxygen generator dripped from the compartment above her seat.
5. A man sued Air New Zealand after he was poked in the thumb from a hypodermic needle in the pocket of the seat back in front of him on a flight from London to Los Angeles.
6. A couple with two young children sued American Airlines after an agent at the boarding area in Miami called one of them a “dirty Jew” in Spanish and caused them to miss a flight to Los Angeles over the Thanksgiving holiday.
7. Hawaiian Airlines was sued by a woman who was blistered and scarred when hot tea, served without a lid or a cup holder, spilled in her lap on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles.
8. A woman on a flight from Tampa to Houston sued United Airlines after a box that an airline employee put in an overhead compartment fell and struck her shoulder.
9. A woman making a connection at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York sued Delta over back injuries she suffered after slipping on the tarmac while boarding a flight to Rochester, New York, on former regional jet Chautauqua Airlines.
10. A woman on a flight from Chicago to Miami sued American Airlines for neck and back injuries she suffered while retrieving her luggage, which a flight attendant had wedged too tightly in an overhead bin.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com. On Twitter: @abronstadnlj.