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Falling carry-on luggage can hurt!

Falling carry-on luggage can hurt!

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Old Jun 14, 04, 8:42 pm
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JS
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Exclamation Falling carry-on luggage can hurt!

At the end of a flight, the flight attendants announce, "Please use caution when opening overhead bins, as items may have shifted during the flight." Unfortunately one person didn't heed this caution and caused an injury. Read on.

I was taking two of my kids to LAX via SAN (DL connecting to American Eagle). We had row 12 port on a 757 (ABC seats). I sat in the window seat, my six year old son sat in the center seat, and my nine year old son sat in the aisle seat.

The flight was wonderful until we arrived at the gate and the seat belt sign went off. A passenger opened the overhead bin above our row and took her bag out and ended up removing two bags from the overhead -- her bag and someone else's heavy computer case. The computer case went straight down on my nine year old son's head.

It happened in a split second. One second he's sitting there minding his own business, and a second later he's crying and bleeding through his hair. I was horrified but remained calm enough to ask someone to call an ambulance.

The woman who dropped the case on him didn't hang around. She got her stuff and left before the cops arrived. I hope someone drops a heavy object on her head so she knows what it feels like. Goddamn selfish ***** was in too much of a hurry.

The paramedics arrived quickly and took us to the hospital (the one on Washington Street). My son seemed to be OK (e.g., didn't faint) but the paramedics agreed with me that a doctor should examine him anyway even though the bleeding had subsided. Three hours later, he was discharged from the hospital, and we spent the night at a hotel a couple of blocks east on Washington St.

Delta wasn't able to re-schedule us on another American Eagle flight from SAN to LAX (something about not being able to overbook), but they did change our Song flight departing LAX at no charge. On the flight into SAN, the flight attendants took down my name and address.

So far, no communication from Delta, although it's only been a few days. Are they going to pay the medical bills? Ideally the selfish old bag should pay, but I guess that's not going to happen.

Ideas and comments? Thanks.

Last edited by JS; Jun 14, 04 at 8:45 pm Reason: clarity
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Old Jun 14, 04, 9:44 pm
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Sorry about your son's experience. I personally would have physically blocked the woman's way and not allowed her to leave until security was called. Conceptually this is the same as leaving the scene of a traffic accident. But no doubt you were preoccupied with attending to your son, as I would have been.

While DL may make a goodwill gesture, it is difficult to attach responsibility to the airline.
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Old Jun 14, 04, 9:55 pm
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Originally Posted by JS
At the end of a flight, the flight attendants announce, "Please use caution when opening overhead bins, as items may have shifted during the flight." Unfortunately one person didn't heed this caution and caused an injury. Read on.

I was taking two of my kids to LAX via SAN (DL connecting to American Eagle). We had row 12 port on a 757 (ABC seats). I sat in the window seat, my six year old son sat in the center seat, and my nine year old son sat in the aisle seat.

The flight was wonderful until we arrived at the gate and the seat belt sign went off. A passenger opened the overhead bin above our row and took her bag out and ended up removing two bags from the overhead -- her bag and someone else's heavy computer case. The computer case went straight down on my nine year old son's head.

It happened in a split second. One second he's sitting there minding his own business, and a second later he's crying and bleeding through his hair. I was horrified but remained calm enough to ask someone to call an ambulance.

The woman who dropped the case on him didn't hang around. She got her stuff and left before the cops arrived. I hope someone drops a heavy object on her head so she knows what it feels like. Goddamn selfish ***** was in too much of a hurry.

The paramedics arrived quickly and took us to the hospital (the one on Washington Street). My son seemed to be OK (e.g., didn't faint) but the paramedics agreed with me that a doctor should examine him anyway even though the bleeding had subsided. Three hours later, he was discharged from the hospital, and we spent the night at a hotel a couple of blocks east on Washington St.

Delta wasn't able to re-schedule us on another American Eagle flight from SAN to LAX (something about not being able to overbook), but they did change our Song flight departing LAX at no charge. On the flight into SAN, the flight attendants took down my name and address.

So far, no communication from Delta, although it's only been a few days. Are they going to pay the medical bills? Ideally the selfish old bag should pay, but I guess that's not going to happen.

Ideas and comments? Thanks.
JS Although, you are looking for answers from DL, I believe that you have raised a much larger issue; one that should be accessible to more FT'rs. Therefore, I am going to move this thread to Travelbuzz with the expectation that you will receive constructive answers all accross the FT Board. I'll leave the link on the DL Forum. I am happy that your son is doing well. IMHO, you deserve some recompense, but I would like to hear the opinion of others.
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Old Jun 14, 04, 9:59 pm
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WOW is the first thing after I read your story.

I would personally be infuriated at that weak minded, empty headed *bleepen* lady who carelessly let her luggage fall on your sons head. I would have subdued her until security/police came.

I would doubt delta covering the medical charges, wouldn't insurance cover that?
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Old Jun 15, 04, 12:08 am
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*I am not a lawyer* but it seems to me that the airline should be responsible.

When the airline advises passengers to "use caution when opening overhead compartments as items may have shifted" they acknowledge that there is a risk posed to passengers by falling luggage. By advising passengers they are taking a small step to mitigate this risk, and they are choosing not to take further steps to mitigate the risk.

Of course this begs the question what additional steps could be taken to mitigate the risk. Would improved design of the overhead compartments reduce the risk? Perhaps different procedures, or restricting the weight/types of luggage that can be stowed in the overhead compartments.

An extreme (but possibly impractical) position would be to disallow the use of overhead compartments altogether. It is within the airline's purview to take this position, despite the fact that it may not be well received. However the fact is that the airline could take this extreme position and eliminate the risk posed by falling luggage. Therefore I say that the airline is culpable for any harm to passengers from falling luggage.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 12:32 am
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JS, just contact a lawyer. I'm sure DL will cover his medical expenses. Delta really makes me sick. It always seems to me that DL flights are the worst as far as pax with carry on luggage. Do you know how tired I am of being one of the few pax whose carry on luggage meets regulations and still can't find overhead space for it!
The woman fled because she didn't want you to sue her, but I think you should track her down even if it's just to have your lawyer send her a scary letter.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 12:59 am
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Delta must have the details of the pax who were seated around you so she can and should be contacted.

good luck.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 4:29 am
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And it's just, just conceivable that if the airlines that still officially allow waaaay too much cabin baggage on board get enough complaints etc., they will finally one day do the right thing and start imposing and enforcing sensible and safe restrictions on the amount of cabin baggage allowed.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 4:43 am
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A few, a very few airlines have clip down mesh holders inside the bins. This means you can see whether anything is likely to fall down when the main bin door is opened. They would seem to be the most logical option - that said the amount of hand luggage allowed on board scares me in the event of a major incident. Lots of potential for really serious head injuries.....
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Old Jun 15, 04, 4:55 am
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Originally Posted by Seachain
Delta must have the details of the pax who were seated around you so she can and should be contacted.

good luck.
I'm 99% sure that Delta can give you the passenger's name. Whether they do is another story. IMHO, the "lady" passenger should be tracked down, and not only be made to reimburse you, she should be made to apologize, since she obviously doesn't have the class to do it on her own. Good luck, and hope your son is feeling better.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 5:25 am
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Interesting questions being raised here. I too have often wondered whose responsible in such cases. I prefer aisle seating, but am often very concerned when passengers are putting oversized/bulky/heavy bags into the overhead above me. There have been a number of times where someone 'loses the struggle' of getting their bags up and it ends up falling down on the aisle armrest or someones lap. Usually, the response is a mumbled "sorry" and a reattempt to get it into the overhead bin.
As for departures, does the fact that the airlines make the statement "be careful about opening bins as contents may have shifted...." does that absolve them of any liability, as they have 'warned' you and thus would it now be 'your' responsibility to take care????
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Old Jun 15, 04, 6:58 am
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JS, my first thoughts are to your son. How is he doing now? I hope he isn't afraid to fly because of that woman's attack on him. And yes, I see it as an attack as she couldn't leave any quicker once she caused a computer to fall on his head. While I don't know what Delta's responsibility's are, I'm sure your attorney will. Plus, as some have said, Delta knows who that woman is. I wonder if a FA saw what she did. Or other witnesses?

Again, I hope your little boy is getting better.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 7:40 am
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My son appears to be fine now. It was just really scary seeing blood coming out of his head, which is why I didn't think of stopping the woman until she was long gone. I am still kicking myself for letting her go. I even had a digital camera in my backpack under the seat in front of me that I could have used to take a picture of the perp and my son's fresh injury! Darn darn darn darn!

On the next flight two days later, we couldn't get three seats together on the Song 757, so he sat in a center seat, I sat in the window seat, and my other son sat behind me. Shoot, I may just intentionally select seat assignments like that in the future to avoid this problem.

I don't know if Delta really knows who the perpetrator is. All we know is that she sat somewhere in rows 10 to 13 (probably 11 or 12) starboard. That's 6 to 12 possible seats.

I don't have an attorney. Is it worth it to find one and pursue this matter? I don't want to be part of "the problem" (people who sue over stupid things) but on the other hand, I want Delta to know what happens when they allow large, heavy carry-ons in the cabin.

I have health insurance, but there is a deductible, coinsurance and a maximum rate that is covered, so this will probably cost a few hundred dollars out of pocket (the E.R. isn't cheap!)
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Old Jun 15, 04, 8:13 am
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JS, I am very sorry for what happened to you and your son. I am happy to hear that he is doing fine.

As an attorney, I find this to be an interesting issue.

Based on your description, I am not sure what the woman did that was wrong (other than leave the scene, which is, it goes without saying, wrong). I guess from your perspective in the window seat, it was difficult to see exactly how she wnet about removing her bag, but from your description, it sounds like she took her bag and, as a result, another one fell on your son.

Leaving aside the issue of leaving the scene (which may make her liable to extra liability under CA law, but I am really not sure, so don't want to speculate), I think you would face an uphill fight if you were to sue her.

First, you would have to find her. If you know her seat number, Delta could likely track her down. The question is whether they would do so without a subpeona. You may have to launch a mini action to find out who she is. If you do not know her exact seat assignment, I think it will be next to impossible. You can probably guess that she was seated near you, but without the knowledge of her exact seat, I doubt Delta can do very much to find her. I doubt you'll be given enough leeway from a court to subpeona every female on the plane (or within a specified number of rows from where you were sitting).

Second, assuming you track her down, this case will have to be in California as that is where the injury occurred. Based on your profil, you live in S.C., which means you will have to deal with the burden of maintaining a lawsuite clear across the country.

Third, you will have to prove your case. Most likely, your cause of action will be common law negligence. While CA might have its own quirky rules on negligence, in most states, negligence involves a four-part prima facia case of:

1 - Duty
2 - Breach
3 - Causation
4 - Injury.

You would first have to prove that she had a duty of care to your son. In general, the duty involved is that one must take care to avoid all foreseeable injuries that can stem from an action. Based on this, I think you can make out a case for duty as a bag falling on someone's head causing injury is a foreseeable risk of removing your bag from an overhead bin (afterall, she was warned of this specific risk).

You will also have an easy time proving the final two elements. There are two parts to causation. The first is that "but for" the negligence, the injury would not have occurred. Clearly, if she was negligent, the bag would not have fallen out and hit your son. Secondly, the bag falling otu must be the proximate cause of the injury. Clearly, it was, since it hit him on the head. The fourth element, injury, is also easy, as you will be able to prove that your son suffered an injury.

This leaves element two, negligence. From what we know, this will be hard. You will have to prove that she disregarded the flight attendant's warning or that something in the way she removed her back was negligent. Negligence is most often judged using a reasonable person test, meaning that the conduct of the plaintiff mus thave deviated from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have used when opening the bin and removing her bag. Did she just throw open the bin? Did she use two hands to remove her bag? Was it obvious before it fell that the second bag was going to fall? You will need to find all this out, which you would normally do by taking her deposition. You could also take the depositions of the other people witness to this incident, provided, of course, you could track them down.

As for suing Delta, all I know is that airlines get sued all the time for this, so I assume a suit is possible, but I do not know how these work (I do know someone who defends Alitalia in these type of actions).

Good luck and be thankful that your son is fine.
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Old Jun 15, 04, 8:55 am
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Thanks for the advice. I am very, very thankful my son is fine. I'm sure much worse injuries are possible.

I agree with you that going after the passenger is just not going to work. The biggest problem is identifying her to begin with.

I realized that I should have stopped her when I was talking to the cops, and the officer said "Well, it probably wouldn't have done any good, since it's just an accident." For crying out loud, is this his attitude at car accidents, too? "Well, he didn't crash into you ON PURPOSE, so tough luck. Buy yourself a new car."

Why are there cops in airports anyway? I have yet to see them serve any purpose whatsoever. All they do is watch law-abiding citizens get hassled at the security checkpoint, and when they have a chance to actually do something, they throw up their hands and say "Oh well, too bad so sad".

Anyway, there is also the issue that it wasn't her bag that was heavy. It belonged to a passenger in the bulkhead seat. He waited to see if my son was going to be OK, and he apologized that it was his bag that hit him in the head. I quickly said thanks for the gesture and headed out the door to go downstairs to the waiting ambulance.

Besides, what if I look at it this way -- it's Delta's airplane and Delta had every right to prohibit large, heavy carry-ons in the overhead bin. They have a closet on the plane, conveniently located near the coach bulkhead seats (we deplaned using door 2L). Shouldn't the closet be used for bulkhead passengers' dense carry-ons that would normally go under the seat in front of you?

Last edited by JS; Jun 15, 04 at 9:01 am
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