In Krum v Malaysian Airline System Bhd  VSC 185, the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, awarded an airline passenger AU$120 000 general damages and AU$26 000 for medical expenses for the loss suffered by him in consequence of injuries to his spine that were caused by a defective airline seat.
The plaintiff had been a passenger on an 11-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Paris with Malaysian Airlines. He flew first class. After dinner, he reclined the seat to sleep but found that the lumber support was protruding from the middle of the seat. The cabin crew refused to move him to another seat, even though spare seats were available. Instead, they gave him blankets and cushions to make him as comfortable as they could, given the problem caused by the protruding lumbar support.
The plaintiff slept in the seat for approximately eight hours. He awoke feeling pain in his left leg. This was subsequently diagnosed as having been caused by a damaged disc at the base of his spine, commonly known as sciatica. In due course he claimed damages from Malaysian Airlines under article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. Expert medical evidence showed that the defective seat had at least contributed to the sciatica, which appeared to be a new condition and not the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. The Court found, on the facts that the passenger’s injury had been caused by an ‘accident’ as required under article 17 of the Warsaw Convention and that there had been no contributory negligence on the plaintiff’s part.
2008 International Travel Law Journal 24