Last updated: 01:25 PM ET, Thu July 30 2015

Man Files Lawsuit Against Etihad for Injuries Sustained Next to Obese Passenger

Airlines & Airports | Patrick Clarke | July 30, 2015

Man Files Lawsuit Against Etihad for Injuries Sustained Next to Obese Passenger

While overweight air travelers are already limited by shrinking seats and various airline policies requiring them to purchase multiple seats in some cases, a court case in Australia could potentially further impact aviation policy.

CNN reported that passenger James Bassos has filed a lawsuit against Gulf carrier Etihad Airways, claiming that he suffered back injuries after sitting next to an overweight passenger in economy class on an October 2011 flight from Sydney to Dubai.

"He claims he was forced to twist and contort his body to avoid contact with his neighbouring passenger, a very large man whose body encroached into his seat," state court papers. "After repeated requests of cabin crew, Mr. Bassos was given limited access to a crew seat, but was still required to spend long stretches of time in a position which he claims caused a back injury and aggravation of an existing back condition."

Bassos is seeking damages for those injuries. 

Etihad has made efforts to have the case dismissed, arguing that the injuries claimed to be sustained weren't the result of an accident and therefore the airline isn't liable, per CNN.

"The presence of overweight passengers who take up too much space in the cramped conditions of economy class is not unexpected or unusual," state court papers. "Nor is a passenger coughing an unexpected or unusual event."

Nonetheless, the case has stuck around, with Brisbane district judge Fleur Kingham having ordered a medical check on Bassos.

Court papers state that Bassos must submit to a medical examination on Dec. 17.

“It would be inappropriate to comment in detail on this case as legal proceedings are underway," said an Etihad Airways spokesperson in a statement to TravelPulse Thursday. "Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015, as directed by court, we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion.

"The safety and comfort of Etihad Airways’ passengers and crew is of paramount importance and the airline has a zero tolerance policy towards unruly behavior.”

For more information on Australia

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