Spilled Coffee on Plane Can Leave Airline Liable, EU Court Finds

(CN) — A child who was scalded with her father’s hot coffee on a flight does not need to prove that there was turbulence to seek compensation from the aircraft, the EU’s highest court ruled Thursday.

A plane from the airline Niki takes off from Dusseldorf, Germany, on Aug. 3, 2017.  (Haute-Christian Dittrich/dpa via AP, file)

The case stems from a flight taken by HM and his 6-year-old daughter GM in 2015 from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna on the now defunct Austrial airline Niki Luftfahrt. The family sought more than $9,000 in damages after the coffee that had been placed on the tray table in front of HM tipped over onto his right thigh and GM’s chest, causing her second-degree burns. The father and child are reffered only by their initials in the court record.

Though the airline said it could not be held liable under the Montreal Convention without proof that the spill was related to a flight hazard, the European Court of Justice determined Thursday in an advisory opinion that injuries need not be linked to obvious aviation issues for a passenger to seek damages.

The Austrian Supreme Court referred the matter to the Luxembourg-based body for input, and the case will return there now for further proceedings.

“The concept of ‘accident’ at issue covers all situations occurring on board an aircraft in which an object used when serving passengers has caused bodily injury to a passenger, without it being necessary to examine whether those situations stem from a hazard typically associated with aviation,” the opinion states.

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