The Court of Session has found EasyJet liable to pay compensation to a paraplegic passenger who fell out of a wheelchair and broke both his legs.
The passenger, Mr Mather, was flying from Edinburgh to Hamburg on an EasyJet flight in May 2017. Mr Mather had been rendered paraplegic since 2009 and as such required the use of a wheelchair. When Mr Mather arrived in Hamburg, he was helped into a wheelchair provided by Hamburg Airport, as his own wheelchair was still located in the hold. Mr Mather was then pushed, by an employee of DRK Hamburg Mediserve GmbH, onto the air bridge leading to the terminal building. As he approached the terminal entrance, the wheelchair struck the raised edge where the air bridge met the terminal, causing Mr Mather to be thrown from the wheelchair, land on his legs and subsequently sustain fractures to both legs.
As the accident occurred outwith Scotland, Mr Mather made a claim against EasyJet for his injuries under the Montreal Convention 1999. Article 17 of the Convention states:
“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”
EasyJet’s solicitors admitted liability for the accident in an email dated 17th July 2018 stating “I have instructions to admit liability in line with the protocol. It is intended to be binding.” However following court action being raised, EasyJet’s solicitors argued that they were not bound by their admission to accept liability made prior to the court action being raised, and that the accident had in fact been caused by the man pushing the wheelchair, who was not an employee of EasyJet but of DRK.
Whilst Article 30 of the Montreal Convention allows claims to be made against EasyJet for actions causing damage which are carried out by an agent or servant of EasyJet, EasyJet argued that DRK were acting as agents of Hamburg Airport rather than EasyJet.
Lord Uist, however, rejected these arguments. He held that the accident was caused solely by the negligence of EasyJet’s agent, DRK. He held that it did not matter that there was no direct contract between EasyJet and DRK, or that DRK were contracted by Hamburg Airport; what mattered was that the services provided by DRK to EasyJet were in furtherance of the contract of carriage, and were services that EasyJet would have had to provide themselves if DRK had not provided them.
EasyJet were therefore held liable to compensate Mr Mather, with the amount to be compensated still to be decided.
If you have had an accident during the course of a flight within the last two years, then our specialised Personal Injury team at Jackson Boyd can help you. Get in touch today!