Judge told cases of scaldings on Ryanair flights ‘every month’

Gráinne Dunworth injured when hot tea spilled on her during trip from Prague to Dublin

Every month there is an incident of a passenger being scalded on Ryanair flights, the Circuit Civil Court was told on Wednesday.

Cabin attendant Irene Haygir told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that there was no doubt but that Gráinne Dunworth had been scalded on a flight from Prague to Dublin in January last year.

Ms Dunworth (27), of Kilmihill, Ballingarry, Co Limerick, said she had been returning with friends from a trip to Prague and had asked a cabin attendant for a cup of tea. She alleged that when it had been placed on the table before her, the lid had not been properly secured and had fallen off when she lifted the cup.

She told her barrister Peter Clein that when she had lifted the cup from the table she had been startled when the lid popped off and she had dropped it, spilling the tea and scalding her abdomen and right thigh.


Ms Dunworth denied she had already added milk to her tea, had placed the milk sachet on the table and was about to drink it when it had fallen in her lap.

Ms Haygir said staff were specifically trained in the service of drinks and in her 10 years of service she had always ensured that the lid on hot drinks was securely in place before serving a passenger.

Intense pain and shock

She was not aware which member of the cabin crew had served Ms Dunworth but when she returned to assist her she had noticed the opened milk sachet on the table. The liquid seemed to have been milked.

Ms Dunworth told Mr Clein, who appeared with Sweeney McGann Solicitors, she had suffered intense pain, shock and distress and after having been given ice, cream and bandages she had sat in the toilet for the remainder of the flight, about an hour and a half.

Captain Conor Ferguson said the incident had been reported to him and an announcement for a doctor had been made but there was none on board. Ms Dunworth had declined the offer of an ambulance being brought to the aircraft at Dublin Airport or the use of a wheelchair.

He had advised that she would consider attending the VHI clinic at Airside, Swords, after landing but she had attended a pharmacy in Santry.

Andrew Walker, counsel for Ryanair, submitted that Ms Dunworth had not only contributed to the accident but had in fact accidentally dropped the cup of tea after adding milk.

He said millions of hot drinks were served every day on flights throughout the world and Ms Haygir had very fairly accepted that scalding was an occurrence on flights and that it occurred for innumerable reasons.

Ms Haygir in cross-examination by Mr Clein, said that when the alarm had been sounded she had gone to Ms Dunworth’s seat and had brought her ice, bandages and gel.

“I cannot say from own knowledge that the lid was properly secured,” she said. “Scalding happens from time to time and there is no doubt that a scalding took place on this occasion.

“Ms Dunworth was in distress and shocked and I could see straight away that the cup had fallen. Every month we have a case like this.”

She said the spilled tea on the table top looked like it had had milk added to it. Ms Dunworth had taken the ice, bandages and gel into the toilet at the front of the aircraft and had stayed there for the remainder of the flight until landing.

Ms Dunworth told the court she had to ask for the first aid gel and dressings. She said the flight had already been in the air for about an hour and there was a shortage of ice. The cabin attendant had brought her ice in a cup.

The judge, awarding Ms Dunworth €10,500 damages and District Court costs against Ryanair, said she accepted Ms Dunworth’s account of what had happened and that she had been startled and dropped the cup on herself when the lid, which had not been properly secured, fell off when she lifted it.