News & Resources

Labbadia v Alitalia [2019] EWHC 2103 (Admin)

2nd August 2019

Lionel Stride, instructed by Rebecca Smith at Irwin Mitchell, has successfully represented the Claimant in a High Court claim arising out of his fall whilst descending disembarkation steps at Milan Airport. Margaret Obi, sitting in her capacity as a Deputy High Court Judge, was satisfied that this caused ‘an unusual or unexpected event external to him’, constituting an ‘accident’ within the meaning of Article 17 of the Montreal Convention 1999 (“the 1999 Convention”).

The case focused primarily on the judicial interpretation of ‘accident’ under 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. There was no legal authority precisely on all fours with the claim. The Defendant contended that the accident was one of ‘pure omission’ (i.e. a failure to clear away snow from the disembarkation steps), which could not constitute an accident within the definition of the 1999 Convention. The Claimant submitted that there was a chain of events leading to his injuries, namely a combination of rain and snowfall prior to landing; the decision (against stated policy) to use uncovered steps despite the weather; the decision (against stated policy) not to clear the steps of snow prior to fixing them to the aircraft; and the compacting of snow on the steps by other passengers prior to the Claimant’s disembarkation, all of which led to the Claimant’s fall from the disembarkation steps. It was argued that the ‘unusual event’ was the positive decision by the airport to use uncovered stairs, without ensuring that they were free of contamination.

Delivering judgment in favour of the Claimant, the Judge agreed with Mr Stride’s submissions that there was a chain of causes which led to the Claimant’s injuries. Though there was nothing inherently unusual about the adverse weather conditions, the use of aircraft stairs without a canopy was ‘a positive decision on the part of the airport personnel’; 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”.  The Court 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. Accepting the arguments of Mr Stride, she 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’.

The Defendant failed to beat the Claimant’s previous Part 36 Offer and was ordered to pay enhanced interest and indemnity costs from the date of expiry of the offer.

Related Barristers

Lionel Stride

Lionel Stride
Year of Call: 2005

Close X

Coronavirus Update

TGC continues proactively to safeguard against the risks posed by the spread of Coronavirus. We have a Covid-19 Committee who continue to monitor the situation and follow advice issued by the Government and Public Health England. We will be updating this page as and when new information becomes available. As of 6 July 2020, our London premises, 1 Harcourt Buildings, will be operating with a reduced clerking team in attendance. The remaining staff members and barristers will continue working remotely. We wish to reassure everyone that our contingency plans enable us to continue to provide our services.

Telephoning us

When calling our switchboard number, it will be diverted to a member of the clerking team who will be able to assist in the usual way. All direct dials in Chambers are diverted to be answered remotely.

Emailing us & Sending Instructions

Please send all instructions via email directly to We would be grateful if this could be sent in an orderly fashion to enable working from a screen manageable. We are able to receive hard copy instructions via DX or Post, if necessary. However, we have a preference for electronic documents wherever possible.

Please continue to communicate with barristers directly via phone or email.

Conferences, Joint Settlement Meetings & Mediations

Conferences, meetings and mediations will take place remotely, either by telephone or video until further notice. Group Telephone calls and video calls can be easily arranged. If an in-person meeting is felt necessary please see our Covid-19 Information page for full criteria.

Court Hearings

We are following the Government’s advice closely, which is changing daily. In keeping with that advice, we will continue to service hearings remotely, where possible and as instructed by the hosting Court. In-Person hearings will be accommodated by members of TGC. We will continue to monitor this situation.

Making a payment

If you do not already pay us by BACS, going forward please make arrangements to do so. Please contact the clerks who can supply you with the relevant BACS details.

If you wish to discuss our policy and procedure relating to coronavirus, please do not hesitate to contact our senior clerk Dean Norton on 07535 753098 or

To learn more visit our Covid-19 Information page.