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Passenger seated beside overweight man sues Etihad over back injury

Etihad Airways said Friday it will continue to fight a lawsuit from a passenger who says he was left with back pain after being seated next to an overweight man on a 14-hour flight from the United Arab Emirates to Sydney, Australia.


James Bassos, of Brisbane, is suing the Abu-Dhabi-based airline in the Queensland state District Court over a permanent back injury he says he suffered while trying to avoid his fellow passenger on the 2011 flight. The 38-year-old interior designer is claiming $166,000 for medical expenses and lost earnings.

Etihad is predicting a court-ordered medical assessment will put an end to the case.

“Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr. Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015 … we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion,” the airline said.

The airline failed this week to have the lawsuit thrown out of court. In refusing the application, Judge Fleur Kingham said Wednesday she was not convinced that Bassos had no chance of winning. She ordered Bassos’ medical examination in Brisbane.

Bassos says he was forced to twist and contort his body to avoid touching the “grossly overweight” passenger, who was spilling into Bassos’ side of the dividing arm rest.

Bassos said the pain started five hours into the trip. He was initially denied the request to move, but a half hour later the pain began to worsen. He asked again to be moved and was allowed to sit in a crew seat in the back of the plan, his claim said.

The Telegraph reports he had to return to his seat for security reasons on two separate occasions; once for another hour and again for the remaining 90 minutes of the flight.

Etihad said in a statement that it was common for a passenger to be seated next to an overweight passenger on a fully booked flight.

Bassos’ claim, filed in 2012, states he suffers back pain, and that his sleep and concentration had been affected and he had been forced to take time off work.


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