Passenger suing Delta for $1m claims faulty armrest broke his rib

The armrest was left in a state of ‘disrepair’ for the rest of the flight   (Getty Images)
The armrest was left in a state of ‘disrepair’ for the rest of the flight (Getty Images)

A passenger who is suing Delta Air Lines for $1 million accused the airline of “negligence” for injuries he suffered inside the cabin in 2022.

In a lawsuit filed to California Southern District Court in May, Joseph Hippensteel alleged that the seat armrest collapsed under his weight as he buckled his seatbelt, causing him to fall into the aisle and break his rib.

The complaint says that his right side was “contorted, twisted, and overextended” during the fall.

At the time of the 16 May 2022 incident, Hippensteel was travelling in the aisle seat on the first leg of a Delta flight from California to London Heathrow via Seattle Tacoma Airport.

The filing includes allegations that Hippensteel, on the cabin floor, injured both his ribs and hip, and had to be aided by a flight attendant and an off-duty doctor.

Two engineers were reportedly called to fix the armrest but were unsuccessful before the plane departed. The lawsuit claims Delta were negligent by failing to properly maintain its aircraft and leaving the armrest in “disrepair”.

The plaintiff is not only suing Delta for negligence, his lawyers say that under the Montreal Convention the US airline is responsible for his injuries.

According to Article 17 of the 1999 Montreal Convention, an airline carrier is liable for bodily injuries sustained by a passenger onboard their aircraft during international flights.

Delta could defend the case if the airline can prove that the injury was sustained due to the negligent behaviour of the passenger.

The Montreal Convention limits compensation damages to 128,821 Special Drawing Rights – a supplementary foreign exchange reserve worth around $170,000 (£136,000).

Hippensteel was travelling on a domestic flight from California to Seattle at the time of the injuries, but his lawyers argue that the conditions of the convention still protect him onboard as his ticket was connecting to London.

The Independent has contacted Delta for comment.