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Aussie crushed by obese passengers sues big US airline

May 9, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

An Australian man has made headlines in the US by launching a lawsuit against a major American carrier after allegedly being squashed by two obese passengers on a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles.

Michael Anthony Taylor, 67, of Wollongong, is seeking more than AUD 100,000 in damages from American Airlines. The case may become a landmark, with obesity surging around the world and slimmer passengers fed up with being crushed by “passengers of size” who overflow into their seats.

An American Airlines spokesman confirmed the airline has received Taylor’s claim, the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday. The carrier has declined further comment while it reviews the allegations.

According to documents lodged in the Federal Court of Australia, Taylor was in an economy class seat on the December 2015 flight. He shared the row with two passengers described as “grossly obese”.

According to a précis of the suit in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Taylor claims that American Airlines’ cabin crew refused to move him from his seat.

Taylor says he was forced to spend most of the trans-Pacific flight “crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing”, ending up with permanent back and neck injuries.

The Telegraph quoted Shine Lawyers transport law manager Thomas Janson saying the lawsuit could have been avoided if American Airlines had responded to Taylor’s repeated requests to be moved.

Janson said that if Taylor’s suit succeeded, it would open the doors potentially to many other cases against airlines based on “how they’ve designed their seating and how they seat passengers”.

Jansen specialises in representing people injured in aviation and aeronautical matters, having practiced in this field since 2013, according to the law firm  website.

“He was instrumental in representing families of the victims of the 2014 Malaysia Airline crashes, the Air Vanuatu Flight NF crash, and the Air Bagan Flight 11 crash,” the site says.

In a separate matter with a similar theme a couple of years ago, an Etihad Airways passenger sued that airline, claiming he had been seated next to a wheezing, dribbling, “grossly overweight” man during a 14-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

James Andrew Bassos, 38, from Brisbane, said he suffered health issues because his seat neighbour was so obese he spilled over into Bassos’ seat, forcing him to twist and contort his body. See: Airline sued over ‘wheezing fat man’ on flight to Sydney

Etihad contested the claim but a District Court judge refused to strike out the case at the airline’s request. The Telegraph noted that the matter was discontinued “after Mr Bassos’ sudden death in 2016”.

The issue of obese passengers on aircraft is fraught with angst and difficulty for airlines and passengers alike. Some airlines refuse to carry passengers if they can’t fit into a single seat and decline to pay for an extra adjoining seat. That approach can strike problems if obesity is defined as a disability, in which case charging an obese passenger extra might be deemed to be discrimination.

Written by Peter Needham

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