Andrews v. United Airlines

(9th Circuit, 1994)

Procedural History: The district court dismissed the suit on summary judgment.

Facts: Andrews was hit and seriously injured by a briefcase falling onto him after an overhead compartment was opened after a United airplane had arrived at its destination gate. No airline personnel were involved in stowing the object or opening the bin. United received 135 reports of falling items from overhead bins in 1987, and started to add warnings to arrival flight announcements.

Issue: Did United take adequate precautions to mitigate danger in heavy objects falling from their overhead compartments? Was the hazard serious enough to warrant more than just a warning?

Rules: Common carriers owe a duty of utmost care towards their passengers. But although common carriers are responsible for even the slightest negligence, they are not insurers of passengers’ safety. Common carriers are required to keep pace with modern improvement in order to exercise utmost care and diligence.

Application: Should United have used netting like some other airlines did? Was this an additional precaution the United should have used?

Holding: Jurors should decide whether United had a duty to do more than warn passengers about the possibility of falling baggage.

Comments are closed.