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Compensation for passenger who slipped on aircraft steps

An airline which argued that a passenger’s headfirst fall down icy, snow-covered steps as he left an aircraft did not amount to an accident has been ordered to pay him more than £100,000 in compensation.

Essex businessman Carmelo Labbadia, 77, broke his right shoulder and pelvis when he fell down the steps of an Alitalia plane parked at Milan airport in February 2015.

As a result, he has been left with lasting pain and a limp which means he is unable to maintain his beloved sports cars, his home and his garden without help and has had to take on staff to assist him.

Not careful enough

Although Alitalia accepted the fall had happened it argued that ice wasn’t to blame and suggested that Mr Labbadia had not been careful enough as he left the plane.

At the High Court, Judge Margaret Obi did not agree: “In my judgement, Mr Labbadia was not the author of his own misfortune,” she said. “He did nothing other than descend the disembarkation steps on the instructions of the airline.”

She awarded him £106,344 in damages including provision for help with household tasks and £5,000 towards the upkeep of his classic cars.

Background 

Mr Labbadia sued Alitalia arguing it was liable to pay him damages under the 1999 Montreal Convention which governs international air travel.

The airline argued that the incident did not amount to an accident because the presence of snow was not an ‘unexpected event’.

Its lawyers claimed: “Meteorological conditions cannot be considered an unusual or unexpected event in air travel.”

But the court heard that, against standard practices at the airport, the stairs had not been cleared of snow by the time the first passenger left the aircraft, causing compacted snow to form, on which Mr Labbadia ultimately slipped.

Mr Labbadia’s barrister Mr Lionel Stride also said that snow in Milan in February was not normal. “Mr Labbadia had never encountered snow when arriving in Milan,” he said.

Airline accidents 

Although flying is an extremely safe method of transport, there are still things that can go wrong like trips and slips on stairs or in the aisle, suffering an illness like food poisoning, being injured by luggage falling out of overhead storage lockers or being hurt during a bad landing or turbulence.

There are a number of straightforward ways you can seek to claim compensation:

  • For domestic flights to and from locations in the UK, the relevant domestic law applies so either that of England and Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland;
  • For international flights, a personal injury claim can be made under the 1999 Montreal Convention;
  • If the injury happens on a package holiday flight, the Package Travel Regulations 1992 enable you to make a claim against the tour operator.

For more information about this area of the law, and to see if you might be able to seek compensation, please contact Richard Green or any member of Wards Solicitors’ specialist Accident and Injury team.

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