To what extent should Chinese airports be obliged to assure the safety of passengers? A recent case involving a personal injury claim filed by a passenger on behalf of a domestic airport could provide some insight into Chinese legislation and the courts' view on this matter.


A passenger was supposed to catch a flight at 8:40pm. At 8:00pm, he fell and suffered a fracture in an outdoor area of the airport. It had been raining, so the road was slippery.

After his medical treatment, the passenger filed a claim against the airport on the ground that the airport had violated its safety assurance duty. He demanded that the airport compensate him nearly 1 million yuan for his personal injury damages, which included:

  • disability compensation;
  • compensation for decreased income due to loss of working time;
  • compensation for mental suffering; and
  • other expenses.


The first-instance court held that the airport had fulfilled the duty of safety protection to the passenger, and shall not undertake any liability.

Did the airport fulfil its obligation to assure the passenger's safety?
According to the Chinese Civil Code, as an operator or manager of a business premise, the airport shall assure passengers' safety. Otherwise, it will bear corresponding tort liability:

Paragraph 1 of Article 1198: Operators, managers of business premises such as hotels, shopping malls, banks, stations, airports, sports stadiums, entertainment premises, etc and public premises or organisers of mass activities who failed to perform safety assurance obligations and caused others to suffer damages shall bear tort liability

After an investigation, it was found that the tiles used in the outdoor areas of the airport were skid-resistant, and had been qualified as such when the airport's construction was completed. This implied that the airport had fulfilled its safety assurance obligations and such skid-resistant treatment was sufficient to ensure a safe passage under normal circumstances.

It would be unreasonable to request the airport to keep its outdoor area dry on rainy days as it would be impossible for the airport to do so. This would be beyond the reasonable range of the safety assurance obligation that should be performed by an airport.

Did the airport environment cause the passenger to fall?
Generally, the following four constructive factors should be considered when deciding on tort liability in Chinese legal practice:

  • the tortfeasor and the tort action;
  • the consequences of the damage occurred;
  • the existence of a causal relationship; and
  • whether the tortfeasor was at subjective fault.

In this case, it had been raining for a few days before the accident happened. However, only one passenger (ie, the claimant) fell and suffered an injury, which implied that the situation did not lead to the passenger falling down and there was no direct causal relationship between the airport's environment and the passenger's injury.

In addition, after checking the CCTV footage, it was found that the passenger had fallen at about 8:00pm, and that he had been in a hurry to catch his flight, which was scheduled to take off 40 minutes later. Therefore, the passenger's carelessness was the ultimate cause of the accident. It was not fair or reasonable to blame the airport, which had performed its safety assurance obligation.


Facing with a logical defence and sufficient evidence, the passenger chose not to appeal.

According to the aforementioned provision of the Civil Code, airports, as business premise operators, shall perform a safety protection duty to passengers, within a reasonable remit. Aside from airports, carriers might also be defined as operators of public venues for specific areas of which they are fully in charge, and may also be required undertake the corresponding duty of safety protection.

This case shows that operators or managers of a business premise should be careful to ensure the safety of their environment and take proactive steps to avoid possible safety accidents. Such measures might include:

  • adding anti-skid treatment to the floor;
  • regularly inspecting and maintaining the building structure and accessories or equipment;
  • putting warning signs in special areas that may cause injury; and
  • dealing with excessive water or areas in which passengers may pass in a timely manner.

For further information on this topic please contact Jin Yu-Lai at KaiRong Law Firm by telephone (+86 21 5396 1065) or email ([email protected]). The KaiRong Law Firm website can be accessed at www.skrlf.com.