United Continental sued for in-flight coffee spill
In a suit reminiscent of the McDonald's case, a passenger says a hot beverage caused 'permanent scarring.'
You probably remember the infamous McDonald's coffee case from the 1990s, in which a woman spilled a cup of overheated java from McDonald's (MCD) onto her lap, was severely burned, and ultimately was awarded several hundred thousand dollars in damages. But not the millions often described in urban legend.
Now United Continental Holdings (UAL), the company formed when Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines, is facing a similar lawsuit. This time, it's from a passenger who claims to have been injured during a coffee spill on a 2011 Continental Airlines flight from Madrid, Spain, to Newark, N.J.
The Los Angeles Times reports Texas resident Lourdes Cervantes is asking a U.S. District Court for a jury trial to seek damages against United Continental Holdings.
The newspaper quotes a court document saying a flight attendant was placing a cup of hot coffee on Cervantes' seat-back tray during the flight when the passenger in front of her reclined the seat, spilling the coffee on her lap.
According to the Times, Cervantes "said she suffered second-degree burns on the inner thighs, resulting in permanent scarring and disfiguration."
"She did suffer quite a bit of pain," her attorney Shaw Clifford told KTRH news radio. "What made it even worse is that Ms. Cervantes has multiple sclerosis, so when the coffee spilled on her, she couldn't get up. She just had to sit there and take it."
The lawsuit also cites the Montreal Convention of 1999, a legal framework that governs an air carrier's liability regarding damage caused to passengers, baggage or goods during international travel. Under certain conditions, it holds airline companies responsible for the deaths or injuries of passengers on those flights.
"This is a treaty the United States and several other countries entered into to regulate international flights," Clifford said, "so there would be one set of rules." And according to the attorney, those rules call only for proof of injury by accident.
"That is a lesser standard of proof than a negligent standard of proof," he added. "So all we have to prove is an accident, and as a result of that accident she suffered injuries and damages."
A spokeswoman for United Continental told the Times the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Ms. Cervantes has MS...so I'd imagine she's many thousands of dollars in debt from her medical expenses. Ulterior motive anyone???
Not again one of these lawsuits by losers. My suggestion: (and I'm no genius) Hold that hot cup of coffee so it won't spill. There could be turbulence, etc. And don't try to play the handicapped card. We don't buy it.
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