Etihad fights lawsuit over sick, obese passenger

SYDNEY • Etihad Airways has vowed to fight a lawsuit brought in Australia by a man who claims he hurt his back after being seated next to a sick, obese passenger.

Brisbane man James Bassos, 38, is seeking damages, reportedly of A$227,000 (S$227,000), after claiming he suffered permanent health problems from being forced to twist and contort his body to avoid contact with the other passenger, "whose body encroached into his seat".

The district court in Brisbane on Thursday heard that the obese passenger also frequently coughed and "expelled fluid from his mouth" during the flight in economy class from Abu Dhabi to Sydney in 2010.

Mr Bassos claims that he complained after five hours of discomfort, but his request to be given another seat was refused. He was eventually allowed to use a crew seat, Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper reported.

Etihad's lawyers last week tried to have the case thrown out. They argued that the airline was not liable as any injuries were not the result of an accident, and that it was not unusual to be seated next to obese or coughing passengers.

But judge Fleur Kingham refused their request and ordered Mr Bassos to undergo a medical assessment. The Abu Dhabi-based airline said it will continue to fight the lawsuit.

Any ruling against Etihad could have ramifications for obese passengers, who are already being turned away by some carriers or required to book extra seats, CNN reported.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Etihad fights lawsuit over sick, obese passenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe