A woman who lodged a €60,000 personal injuries claim after falling down the exit stairs of a Ryanair plane at Dublin Airport, has lost her case and been ordered to pay the airline's legal costs.
Judge Jacqueline Linnane said Sabrina Melloni was carrying two pieces of hand luggage and her handbag as she disembarked from the Boeing 737 and did not use the handrails on either side of the steps.
Barrister Andrew Walker, for Ryanair, told the Circuit Civil Court that Ms Melloni (51) had been exiting a London to Dublin flight at 11.30am on New Year’s Eve when she fell.
Ms Melloni, of Beechfield House, Oulton Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3, fell on her face and suffered a bump to her forehead and soft tissue injuries that cleared up after some months.
Mr Walker said she had brought the claim under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention on the basis that the stairs lowered from the body of the aircraft were wet and slippery and caused her to fall.
In a reserved judgment, Judge Linnane said a full defence was delivered by Ryanair and Mr Walker had specifically pleaded that the incident did not come within the provisions of Article 17 of the convention and Ms Melloni was therefore precluded from maintaining any cause of action against Ryanair.
The judge said it was not disputed that Ms Melloni fell and was injured when using the stairs but Ryanair denied they were wet.
Judge Linnane said the Montreal Convention was transposed into Irish Law through a 2004 Act and provided an exclusive cause of action and sole remedy against the carrier and restricted a claimant to proceedings against the carrier.
She said Ms Melloni was with her nine-year-old daughter at the time and they were disembarking from the front of the aircraft after up to 70 others had done so without incident while using the same stairs.
The judge said Mr Walker had claimed that what happened was not “an accident” within the meaning of Article 17 of the Convention and had quoted US and UK legal authorities, in the absence of Irish authorities, to support his contention.
Judge Linnane said Ms Melloni’s evidence was that it was raining and she was not afforded assistance as she disembarked but had not asked either of the two cabin crew for help. On behalf of Ryanair a senior supervisor stated it was not raining and the steps were dry.
The judge said weather records for December 31st, 2015 showed there had been no rain recorded in Dublin until 4pm that afternoon, more than four hours after Ms Melloni fell. She found the fall was not an “accident” within the meaning of Article 17 of the Convention.
The court concluded that Article 17 contemplated, by the term accident, “a distinct event, not being any part of the usual, normal and expected operation of the aircraft.”