18.12.08  

A slip on an aeroplane is not an accident within the meaning of Montreal Convention 1999; claim for injury fails.  

Ms Barclay appealed against the dismissal of her claim by Oxford County Court. In 2004 she was a passenger on a BA flight from the US to London. In the course of reaching her seat she slipped on a strip embedded in the floor of the aircraft and injured her knee. The Court of Appeal had to consider whether her injuries were caused by an accident within the meaning of Article 17.1 of the Montreal Convention 1999 which provides that “The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”  

Held: Article 17.1 contemplates, by the term “accident”, a distinct event, not being any part of the usual, normal and expected operation of the aircraft, which happens independently of anything done or omitted by the passenger. There was no accident here that was external to Ms Barclay, no event that happened independently of anything done or omitted by her. It was an instance of “the passenger’s particular, personal or peculiar reaction to the normal operation of the aircraft”. Accordingly her appeal failed.  

Comment: This case is a reminder that, given the provisions of the Montreal Convention, it will be difficult for a claimant to succeed in a claim in respect of an accident on board an aircraft, unless it can be shown that an external event was involved. The decision follows on from other claims where the meaning of “accident” for the purposes of the Convention has been considered, for example in DVT and Air Travel Group Litigation (2006) the House of Lords upheld the Court of Appeal’s finding that there was no “accident” where the onset of deep vein thrombosis was caused by air travel.