Airline not liable to passenger for injury sustained while avoiding fast-moving flight attendant

Kopp v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (E.D. Ky. Dec. 26, 2019).  During a domestic flight, the passenger/plaintiff was standing in the aisle when a flight attendant came “rushing” toward her “at a high rate of speed,” according to the complaint.  The plaintiff alleged that, while trying to get out of the way, she caught her foot in a seat frame and twisted her knee, causing an injury.  The plaintiff’s complaint alleged negligence causes of action against Delta and the flight attendant.  During discovery, the plaintiff admitted that the flight attendant never made physical contact with her and that there was nothing defective about the seat.

Delta moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to prove that Delta owed her any duty that was breached.  The court agreed.  It observed that, although airlines, as common carriers, owe passengers “the highest degree of care,” they are not strictly liable for any injury sustained during transportation and their duty of care “does not include closely watching every move of able-bodied passengers in an attempt to prevent injury because such a duty would be near impossible.”  Accordingly, the court ruled that Delta did not have a duty to prevent the injury the plaintiff sustained.

The court also ruled that, even assuming “the common carrier duty covered this scenario,” no reasonable jury could conclude that Delta had breached such duty by the flight attendant’s act of merely walking quickly down the aisle.  The court granted Delta’s motion and, sua sponte, granted summary judgment for the flight attendant as well.


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