Airline Staff Injure Elderly Passenger in Wheelchair at Newcastle Airport

Published 07 Mar 2018

LM is an elderly lady with numerous medical conditions. Despite this, she was independent and was able to be mobile with a walker. She was to travel to Melbourne to see her elderly father who was on his sickbed. As she went through the screening process, the airline staff put her into a wheelchair to take her to boarding.

She was being pushed on the tarmac when a wheel got stuck in a groove. The airline staff member pushing her, instead of pulling back to free the wheel, kept pushing forward, tipping LM out of the wheelchair, like a wheelbarrow. Our client fell forward striking her head hard.

Her injuries were so significant that an ambulance had to be called and our client missed her plane.

Because this matter involved the transporting of a passenger to a plane the claim was prosecuted under the Civil Aviation Act.

In the coming months, LM’s condition deteriorated, and she was no longer independent. She was reliant upon her daughter for many of her activities of daily living. Being on a fixed income, each week she had to make the difficult choice between purchasing medication or food. The incident caused LM extreme hardship both physically and psychologically.

From the date the claim was brought against the airline to the matter being listed for hearing, there were no meaningful offers from the Defendant. It was only through pressing the Court to make orders for an informal settlement conference that the parties finally were able to enter into meaningful negotiations.

The negotiations proceeded well, except for a legal argument as to the applicable law for the calculation of damages.

If the proper law was the Civil Aviation Act, which is a Federal Legislation, then the damages would be calculated in accordance with common law principles. If the applicable law was the law of the state, the Civil Liability Act, then certain thresholds would need to be met for each head of damage. The difference in real terms of LM in negotiations was about $100,000.

The negotiations that day failed to yield a result, but the negotiations and legal arguments continued. The matter ultimately resolved for $95,000 which was an excellent result for LM.