A 16-year-old who was burned by coffee on a long-haul Virgin Australia flight is suing the airline for negligence.
Rhett Butler was traveling from Los Angeles to Sydney in May 2015 when a cup of coffee fell from his tray table and into his lap. Butler suffered burns to his thighs, groin, genitals and midriff, according to a statement of claim filed in Victoria, Australia.
The lawsuit alleges that not only was Butler’s tray table lacking a recess to hold a cup, it was defective and pointing down towards the passenger. The coffee cup slid off the tray table and onto Butler’s lap.
“It was excruciating and probably the worst pain I have ever felt,” Butler told The Daily Mail. “I ran to the toilet and Dad immediately started putting cold water on the burns.”
The incident occurred shortly after take-off on the 15-hour flight. After lack of medical attention from flight crew, Butler’s father had to provide his own.
The Butler family said that because the airline did not have enough bandages on board, they were forced to use their own. Flight crew only had two ice packs and stopped giving Butler water bottles after he had gone through 12, to ensure that there would be enough water for first class passengers onboard.
Butler was taken to the hospital and treated by paramedics when the plane landed.
Virgin Australia confirmed the incident but denied to comment any further.
“Virgin Australia takes the safety and comfort of our passengers extremely seriously, however given this particular matter has not yet been resolved it would not be appropriate to comment any further,” an airline spokesperson said in a statement.
In 2012, a woman sued Southwest for $800,000 after hot tea fell and burned her lap. She was eventually awarded $500,000 in punitive damages. However many cases about burns aboard planes are settled in mediation.