Do I have any recourse against an airline if I was injured during a flight? 22 Answers as of March 06, 2011

I was on a flight and a cup of coffee served on the plane spilled on me. I received second degree burns. Do I have any recourse?

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David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
Only if employees of the airline were negligent in either spilling the coffee, or in serving coffee so hot that it created a danger. In the famous McDonald's case. The Plaintiff was able to show that OSHA, or some other appropriate government agency had warned McDonald's that they were serving coffee too hot, and that people were getting injured as a result. She had third degree burns over about 25% of her body and the doctor said that it was one of the worst burn cases he had ever seen. Thus, there was enough damages for a law firm to go to the expense of gathering all of this evidence.
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 3/6/2011
Wilson & Hajek, LLC
Wilson & Hajek, LLC | Eddie W. Wilson
If there was negligence on the part of an airline employee you do have recourse.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 3/4/2011
Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates
Lyle B. Masnikoff and Associates | Lyle B. Masnikoff
Yes. You need to call a personal injury attorney.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 3/4/2011
William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law
William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law | William C. Gosnell
Yes hire a lawyer.
Answer Applies to: Tennessee
Replied: 3/4/2011
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
While you may have some recourse for your injuries, they may not be as much as you would normally think because on a flight, it is expected that there will be turbulence, etc. that can cause such an injury. It also would depend upon whether other factors are present such as coffee that is kept too hot that would cause such a burn, as in the McDonald's case where they were repeatedly told the coffee was too hot, etc. I suggest you consult with a competent personal liability lawyer to see if you have a case. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 3/4/2011
    LT Pepper Law
    LT Pepper Law | Luke T. Pepper
    You can sue the airline for negligence. We would have to investigate the claim to determine whether the airline was negligent but assuming they were negligent you can sue.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    I would certainly think so. Assuming an airline employee was negligent in the handling of the coffee. There may be very short statute of limitations on these cases, so you should contact me quickly to discuss the process.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    The Woods Law Firm
    The Woods Law Firm | F.W. Woods Jr.
    Yes if it was the fault of an airline employee
    Answer Applies to: South Carolina
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    Yes, but they are subject to different rules than ordinarily; I would promptly consult with an attorney who has brought such a claim in the past.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    Sounds like the famous McDonalds case. In that case, the plaintiff spilled the coffee herself when she placed it in between her knees and spilt it into her lap. The issue there was how hot the coffee was. I believe the evidence showed it was 185 degrees and they even boasted about having the hottest coffee in town. She suffered 3rd degree burns on 6% of her skin and lesser burns over 16% of her skin. She had to have skin grafts the injury was so bad, spent 8 days in the hospital and had treatment for 2 years. The jury awarded $2.86 million and the judge reduced it to $640,000. She had initially tried to get them to settle for $20,000, but they only offered her $800. She then got a lawyer an the rest is history. In my opinion, depending on how hot the coffee was, you may have a claim, even if you spilled it or air turbulence caused it to spill. If a flight attendant spilled it, you would definitely have a claim for his or her negligence. I found this info on the internet about that case and coffee temperatures causing burns:

    During the case, Liebeck's attorneys discovered that McDonald's required franchises to serve coffee at 180190 F (8288 C). At that temperature, the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Stella Liebeck's attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140 F (60 C), and that a number of other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald's. Liebeck's lawyers presented the jury with evidence that 180 F (82 C) coffee like that McDonalds served may produce third-degree burns (where skin grafting is necessary) in about 12 to 15 seconds. Lowering the temperature to 160 F (71 C) would increase the time for the coffee to produce such a burn to 20 seconds. (A British court later rejected this argument as scientifically false finding that 149 F (65 C) liquid could cause deep tissue damage in only two seconds.) Liebeck's attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns. McDonald's claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee; the high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip. However, this contradicts the company's own research that showed customers actually intend to consume the coffee while driving to their destination.

    The evidence also revealed that McDonalds had over 700 scalding coffee claims, but felt that was not statistically significant enough to reevaluate that coffee temperature protocol.

    Your question does not detail what medical care you had to receive. But at first blush, I would certainly suggest you speak with an attorney to see about making some type of claim against the airline.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Gerald C. Barton
    Gerald C. Barton | Gerald C. Barton
    Your inquiry does not provide enough information to determine whether you have a valid claim for personal injuries against the airline. Did the stewardess spill the cup of coffee on you or were you already served the cup of coffee and had it on your tray or were holding it? What caused the coffee to spill? Turbulence, the actions of another passenger, something else? The more the cause of the spill was in the control of the airline or its employees, the more liable they may be. You could also have a claim that the coffee was unreasonably hot, although this may be difficult to prove.

    I suggest you contact a personal injury attorney with all of the details of the accident, and they will be able to properly inform you of the possible merit of your claim.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Ferguson & Ferguson
    Ferguson & Ferguson | Randy W. Ferguson
    Yes you do. I just settled a coffee case in Huntsville, Alabama. The airlines have insurance.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate
    Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
    You have a cause of action, however, it will be difficult to proceed as you will need an attorney who is familiar with the legal procedure against an airline.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Law Offices of Michael Stephenson
    Law Offices of Michael Stephenson | Michael Stephenson
    Possibly. If the airline or its employees were negligent in some way, you may have a viable claim for damages you suffered. However, if there were no reasonable precautions they could have taken that would have prevented the accident, you would likely not prevail.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    Sorry to hear about your painful incident. There should be a claim here. Please contact us if you wish to discuss further. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney
    Patrick M Lamar Attorney | Patrick M Lamar
    I have to say I am not sure. There has to be a negligent act. The only thing I can think of is if the coffee was too hot to be served (hard if not impossible to prove now) or if the weather was too turbulent for hot beverages to be served. I would guess there could be a federal preemption problem also due to interstate commerce, but I do not know that for sure. Consult a lawyer who specialized in airline law.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
    Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
    I never have enough facts. Who spilled the coffee? You? The next passenger? The steward? Have to show some fault here.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates
    Barry Rabovsky & Associates | Barry Rabovsky
    You may have a case, based upon the information that you have supplied. We would be happy to provide you with a free consultation if you call my office at either of the numbers listed below. If my office accepts your case, there is no fee charged unless we are able to obtain a settlement for you.

    Thank you for your email, and we look forward to hearing from you.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    David B. Sacks, P.A.
    David B. Sacks, P.A. | David Sacks
    I believe so. Please call me to further discuss.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/4/2011
    Shaw Law Firm
    Shaw Law Firm | Steven L. Shaw
    Yes. The airline has a duty to keep you safe as it transports you and you have the right to make a claim. The manner of making a claim with them can be tricky and finding a lawyer who has experience with those types of claims is important.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/4/2011
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