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Were You Burned By Coffee or Tea on a Plane? The Airline Could Be in Hot Water

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Over 20 years ago, when a woman filed a lawsuit against a popular fast food chain because she received burns from her drive-through coffee, the reaction from the country was a collective eye roll. Coffee was meant to be hot, and many claimed that the lawsuit was frivolous—but that didn’t stop the victim from collecting nearly $600,000 in medical and punitive damages.

Today, our coffee cups come with warnings on the cup and lid, telling us of the dangers contained within. This has been enough to protect many service establishments from legal action against them for burns related to their hot beverages, but one area where burns remain fairly common is onboard commercial aircraft.

You really do have to give flight attendants credit, pouring hundreds of hot beverages in a jet that is hurtling through the sky. Unfortunately, whether it is in the handoff process, the flimsy tray tables, or a quickly reclining seat in front of you, there remain factors that could cause you the spill your coffee or tea, and possibly suffer serious burns as a result.

Is the Airline Liable for Your Burns from Spilled Coffee or Tea?

Despite the negative attention that first hot coffee case received, the fact of the matter is that hot drinks can cause serious, painful burns that often require skin grafts and cause serious scarring. In a tightly packed, unpredictable environment like an aircraft, the risk of spills and burns are quite high. The question is, if you burn yourself, will the airline be responsible for your injuries?

The answer will rely heavily on the nature of your flight. On a domestic flight, the burden will be on you to prove that the flight attendant was negligent in his or her service of the beverage. Was the cup dangerously full, or was the coffee poured into a cup meant for cold beverages? Perhaps the flight attendant did not verify that you had a grip on the cup before releasing it, or was distracted by something else. If your neighbor bumped you or the flight hit a patch of rough air, however, it would be very challenging to assign negligence to the airline.

On international flights, the Montreal Convention places a far higher standard on the airline to keep you safe during your flight. If you were burned in what could be considered an accident—an unusual or unexpected external event—such as your tray table breaking, the airline would likely be found responsible.

If you have been burned by a hot beverage on a flight, you are likely facing large medical bills and a painful recovery. If the airline is responsible for your injuries, you deserve compensation. Contact the Phoenix aviation attorneys with decades of trusted experience to schedule your consultation today.

Category: Airplane Accident


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