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Scalded at 30,000 Feet

Apr 13, 2022 | Cases

by Reid Lampert

When you go through the drive-through at a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or Dunkin’ Donuts, you are handed your coffee, tea, or hot beverage with a lid tightly snapped on to prevent spilling and to ensure that if the drink is spilled, the amount of liquid that can spill out is prevented or greatly reduced. You are in your car and sitting stationary. You make the decision when to pull forward and are knowledgeable when it will happen.

Why is it that when you are a passenger in an airplane, with potentially turbulent air, and you order a hot beverage you are handed a small cup that is hard to transfer from one person to another, often reaching over other passengers, without any type of lid tightly snapped into place?

Katzman Lampert & Stoll has been asking this exact question to air carriers. Our firm represents numerous clients, all with the same set of facts. A person orders a hot beverage during the flight, the flight attendant gives the hot beverage to the person without providing or even asking if the person would like a lid, and the drink spills and scalds or burns someone. In an environment without sudden unexpected jolts or movements, a drive-through, more care is taken to prevent spilling than on an airplane where sudden turbulent up and down drafts are always a possibility.

Our firm has become experts in this field and will bring cases on behalf of victims until the commercial air carriers change their practices to protect their passengers.

In general, a common carrier has a duty to its passengers to exercise the highest degree of care consistent with the practical operation of its type of transportation and its business. Any failure of a common carrier to exercise such care is negligence. Air carriers are held to the highest standard of care in their training, managing, supervising, and control of the cabin and flight crews. The crews are solely responsible for the safe and secure operation of their flights and the safety and well-being of their passengers. Providing hot beverages with the knowledge they are hot enough to scald and cause 2nd degree burns, without providing protective measures to prevent spills is negligent and the air carriers are liable for the damage caused.

On international flights the liability of the air carrier is even more strict. Signatories to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (“Montreal Convention”) agree that the Convention regulates the liability of the air carrier. The Montreal Convention renders air carriers strictly and absolutely liable-even in the absence of its employee’s negligence-to pay full, fair and reasonable damages to the plaintiff for the totality of compensable injuries and damages sustained. The carrier is very rarely able to limit its liability under the Montreal Convention because it cannot show (1) that it and its cabin crew and other employees were not negligent in causing the plaintiff’s injuries and, (2) that it took all necessary precautions to prevent the accident that resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries during the subject flight, nor can the carrier prove that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused solely by the acts of third parties. This allows claimants to simply must prove their damages in order to recover.

In both cases, Katzman Lampert & Stoll have been able to obtain favorable outcomes for our clients. The amount of calls we receive show these incidents are not isolated, and we will continue to pursue just compensation for passengers who are continuously harmed by the negligent conduct of these air carriers.

If this has happened to you, please call or message us; we would like to help. Not only to help you, but to hopefully make changes in an industry blind to its safety obligations to its fare paying passengers.

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Our practice exclusively involves injury and death cases resulting from airplane accidents, helicopter crashes, and aviation disasters.

Katzman Lampert & Stoll
950 West University Dr #101
Rochester, MI 48307

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Phone: (248) 258-4800
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Katzman Lampert & Stoll
9596 Metro Airport Ave.
Broomfield, CO 80021

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Katzman Lampert & Stoll
121 N. Wayne Ave. # 205
Wayne, PA 19087

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