Massachusetts Court Discusses Liability for Harm Suffered While Flying

Many airlines that service Massachusetts offer international travel. Thus, if a person is injured while traveling by air or disembarking a plane, it may be unclear whether the airline may be liable under United States law. In many instances, the Montreal Convention applies, and a plaintiff must prove certain elements were present when the injury occurred in order to recover damages. The evidence a plaintiff must produce to recover damages under the Montreal Convention was the topic of a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you suffered injuries while traveling, it is possible you have a claim for damages, and you should meet with a proficient Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff was flying from Boston, Massachusetts, to London, England. When she arrived in London, she was disembarking from the plane when she lost her balance on the last step and fell, injuring both ankles. The step that caused her to fall was bigger than the prior step, but there were no warnings, and no one from the defendant airline offered her assistance while disembarking. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, asserting negligence claims and seeking damages under the Montreal Convention. The defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims, and the court granted the motion.

Proving Claims Under the Montreal Convention

The court noted that both the United States and the United Kingdom are signatories to the Montreal Convention, a treaty that limits liability for international air carriers. Pursuant to the Convention, a carrier will be liable for bodily harm sustained by a passenger if the injury occurs while the passenger is on the plane or disembarking or embarking. If a claim for damages falls under the Convention, all other claims are preempted. In other words, an air carrier will not be liable for state law claims for harm covered by the Convention; rather, the Convention will provide the sole remedy.

The court went on to explain that if the Convention is deemed to apply, then the subject injury must be caused by an accident. In other words, it must arise out of an unintended or inappropriate occurrence that happens during the operation of the aircraft. Thus, liability will only be triggered if an injury is caused by an unusual or unanticipated event that is external to the passenger. In the subject case, the court found that the evidence of record clearly indicated the plaintiff’s injury was not caused by an accident or unexpected occurrence, as it happened when she was exiting the plane. As such, she could not recover under her Montreal Convention claim. Further, her negligence claim was preempted by the Montreal Convention claim. Based on the foregoing, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Speak to an Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

People hurt while flying may be able to recover compensation if they can prove their harm happened under certain circumstances. If you sustained injuries on a plane, experienced personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can advise you of your options for pursuing damages and help you to pursue the best result available in your case. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or through our form online to schedule a meeting.