(CN) – A woman who hit her head on a plane’s overhead monitor does not have to show that Icelandair violated federal standards to establish that an accident occurred for a lawsuit, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
After boarding Icelandair Flight 656 and trying to stow her bags, Elin Phifer struck her head on an overhead television and collapsed in the aisle. She filed a federal complaint against the airline in Los Angeles, claiming it was liable for her injuries under Article 17 of the Convention of the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air, commonly called the Montreal Convention, which holds carriers responsible when passengers suffer accidents while boarding, aboard or disembarking aircraft.
U.S. District Judge Otis Wright dismissed the complaint, finding that Phifer had failed to show that Icelandair had violated Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
The federal appeals court in Pasadena reversed in a unanimous decision.
“Although FAA requirements may be relevant to the District Court’s ‘accident’ analysis, they are not dispositive of it,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote for the three-judge panel. “We have never held that violation of FAA requirements is a prerequisite to suit under Article 17.”
On remand, Wright must “determine under the proper standard whether an Article 17 ‘accident’ has occurred.”