The highest court in Europe has decided that airlines should be held accountable if they offer insufficient first aid in the event of an incident that leaves a passenger injured during a flight.
An Austrian court submitted the issue to the European Court of Justice in order to get clarification on whether the First Aid given by the cabin crew might be considered an accident.
According to Article 17 of the Montreal Convention, airlines are responsible for the majority of injuries that passengers suffer as a result of an in-flight mishap or when boarding and disembarking. Airlines can only defend themselves with a very few exceptions, and customers can receive significant compensation.
An Austrian Airlines passenger who was burned after a jug of hot coffee fell from a catering trolley accidentally filed the claim that the Court of Justice was requested to decide on.
The injured passenger was attended to by the cabin crew, but he filed a lawsuit, claiming that the carrier should be held responsible and had to pay damages for aggravated injuries received as a result of the insufficient First Aid that was offered.
On Thursday, the Court of Justice ruled that administering first aid might have contributed to the tragedy and that airlines might be held accountable for delivering inadequate in-flight medical care.
Passengers might be able to claim that poor first aid made their injuries worse, which might lead to a higher compensation award. The Montreal Convention caps remuneration at 128,821 Special Drawing Rights, a fictitious currency now worth approximately $170,000.
Accidents on airplanes: Under the Montreal Convention, airlines are strictly liable for poor first aid provided on board an aircraft.
“The Court notes that it is not always possible to attribute the occurrence of damage to an isolated event where that damage is the result of a series of interdependent events,” the EU’s top court said on Thursday.
“Thus, where there is a series of intrinsically linked events that take place successively, without interruption, in space and time, that series of events must be regarded as constituting a single ‘accident’ within the meaning of the Montreal convention.”
“It cannot be disputed that there is a causal link between the jug of coffee falling and the aggravation of the bodily injuries caused by it on account of inadequate first aid being administered,” the ruling continued.
The same court decided a year ago that airlines should be held accountable under the Montreal Convention for mishaps that cause passengers to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but do not necessarily cause bodily harm.
A passenger from Austria who took part in the emergency exit of a Luada Airlines plane in 2019 also filed the lawsuit. The Montreal Convention only covered physical damage, according to attorneys working on behalf of the bankrupt company.
The court rejected the claim, stating that “mental impairment” should be covered by the Montreal Convention because it might be just as severe as physical harm.