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Labbadia v Alitalia

02/08/2019

Lionel Stride successfully represented the Claimant in a High Court claim arising out of his fall whilst descending disembarkation steps at Milan Airport. The case focused primarily on the judicial interpretation of ‘accident’ under the Montreal Convention 1999 (“the 1999 Convention”), namely whether there had been an unusual, unexpected or untoward event, external to the Claimant, causing death or injury, on board an aircraft or in the course of embarkation or disembarkation.

Margaret Obi, sitting in her capacity as a Deputy High Court Judge, found that, against the standard practices at the airport, the stairs had not been cleared of snow by the time the first passenger disembarked the aircraft, causing compacted snow to form on which the Claimant would ultimately slip. Though there was nothing inherently unusual about the adverse weather conditions, she accepted that the use of aircraft stairs without a canopy was ‘a positive decision on the part of the airport personnel’; and that the decision ‘involved a series of actions and omissions culminating in the aircraft stairs being aligned to the aircraft and the authority being given for the passengers to disembark’. This in combination constituted an “event”.

Accepting the arguments of Mr Stride, she also found that ‘the event was unusual from the point of view of the Claimant … he had no reason to expect that the stairs would be slippery due to compacted snow. Therefore, the event was unexpected and unforeseen from his perspective’. There is no other case precisely on all fours with this judgment, which helps to clarify the scope of the Court of Appeal decision in Barclay v British Airways PLC [2008] EWCA Civ 1419.

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