A small business owner has won £130,000 ($181,000) in a lawsuit against British Airways after slipping in a puddle of Baileys Irish Cream liqueur which had been spilt on the floor near one of the airline’s check-in desks at the airline’s Heathrow Airport. British Airways has agreed to the payout but is defending itself against claims by Andreas Wuchner for even more damages.
Wuchner had arrived at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in November 2017 ahead of an international flight to Zurich when he slipped in the pool of liquid that had been spilt by another passenger. He was seriously injured after hitting his head on the hard floor and suffered brain damage as a result of the fall.
In his lawsuit, which was heard at the Central London County Court, Mr Wuchner claimed the maximum amount available under the Montreal Convention – an international agreement that allows passengers to sue airlines for injury caused during an international flight.
To win a payout, an airline passenger simply needs to prove that the injury was caused during an accident and that the accident took place either onboard the aircraft or “in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking” – such as during the check-in process.
The only defence available to an airline sued under the Montreal Convention is to convince a court that the injury was caused by the passenger’s own negligence. Last year, Aer Lingus sued one of its own passengers claiming that his actions in opening an overhead bin caused luggage to fall out and hit another passenger on the head causing a permanent dent in her head.
The Aer Lingus case was part of the airline’s defence that the airline wasn’t responsible for the injury because negligence on the part of another passenger had actually caused the injury.
In this latest case, British Airways has agreed to the initial payout under the Montreal Convention but has denied allegations that negligence on the part of its employees led to Mr Wuchner’s injuries. If negligence is proven, Mr Wuchner could be eligible for an even bigger award that could cover loss of earnings.
Prior to the accident, Mr Wuchner owned a stationery company which subsequently folded within a year and a half of him suffering the serious injuries.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.