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Delta Air Passenger is Suing For $1 Million After He Suffered a Fractured Rib When the Armrest Suddenly Gave Away

Delta Air Passenger is Suing For $1 Million After He Suffered a Fractured Rib When the Armrest Suddenly Gave Away

a row of seats with monitors on the side

A Delta Air Lines passenger is suing the Atlanta-based carrier for more than $1 million after he claims he suffered a broken rib when the armrest suddenly collapsed beneath him, causing him to fall on the cabin floor.

In a lawsuit filed in a California district court earlier this month, Joseph Hippensteel says the incident happened on May 16, 2022, when he was traveling with Delta from California to London with a connection in Seattle.

On the first flight from California to Seattle, Hippensteel says he boarded the plane as normal and went to buckle his seatbelt before departure. To do so, Hippensteel says he lent on the armrest, causing it to unexpectedly buckle under his weight and collapse downwards.

Hippensteel’s body followed the direction of the armrest, causing him to fall to the floor and injure his hip and rib. A flight attendant and an off-duty physician rushed to Hippensteel’s aid while two engineers were called to the plane to try to fix the armrest.

The engineers weren’t, however, able to fix the armrest so the flight departed with the armrest is a state of ‘disrepair’.

Hippensteel is suing Delta under the provisions of the Montreal Convention, an international passenger rights treaty that applies only to international flights. In this case, although Hippensteel was on a domestic flight at the time of incident, he says the convention should apply because he was connecting onto an international service on the same ticket.

Under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, airlines are responsible for injury sustained by a passenger onboard their aircraft. There are few defenses available to airlines unless they prove that the injury was sustained due to the negligent behavior of the passenger.

The Montreal Convention does, however, limit compensation to 128,821 Special Drawing Rights – a made-up currency that is currently worth approximately $170,000.

But Hippensteel is also suing Delta for negligence, arguing that the airline failed to properly maintain its aircraft and the armrest, which gave way under his weight. The negligence part of the lawsuit bumps up Hippensteel’s compensation demands to more than $1 million.

The burden of proof for a claim under the Montreal Convention is going to be a lot lower than the negligence part of this case, so if the lawsuit does go ahead, the payout might be a lot lower than Hippensteel is claiming.

Delta Air Lines declined to comment.

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