(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Southwest Airlines is in hot water for allegedly burning a passenger with a cup of scalding tea.
According to a lawsuit filed this week in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 28, 2011, Angelica Keller, of Smyrna, Tenn., suffered second-degree burns during a trip from Nashville to Houston on the airline.
On that day, Keller, who was seated in a window seat in the first row of the plane, ordered a cup of tea. The flight attendant brought her a cup of piping hot water, which was sitting in another cup containing the tea bag and condiment packets like sugar and possibly creamer. Since there was no tray table or flat surface, Keller had difficulty disassembling the double cup and the water spilled all over her lap. And since she was wearing her seat belt, she could not move quickly enough and had to sit in “extremely hot water” until she could get up.
She spent the rest of the flight in the restroom.
According to the lawsuit, the flight attendant made absolutely no effort to inquire of plaintiff if she would like some assistance in being able to place the tea bag into the paper “hot cup.” Nor did she try to help. What’s more, the suit claims, both Southwest and/or the flight attendant were negligent because they failed to provide any kind of drop-down table in the front row; did not warn Keller verbally or in writing of the “potential danger involved in the delivery of hot tea during a flight”; and served water that was way too hot for use in an airplane where turbulence is always a possibility.
As a result of the accident, Keller’s skin blistered and peeled away from her body in her groin and buttocks area, even though she was fully clothed. The lawsuit, which seeks $300,000 for property damages, medical bills, injuries and pain and suffering and $500,000 in punitive damages, also claims that she has suffered permanent scarring, lost income, and “loss of enjoyment of life.”
In a statement to ABC News, Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz said that “Our Customers’ safety and comfort are our top priorities, and we safely serve millions of drinks onboard every year. The referenced event is unfortunate and we are currently reviewing it.”
In the most famous case of its kind, a jury found McDonald’s liable in 1994 for a customer’s coffee burns, awarding a $2.7 million judgment, which was later reduced. In that case, the victim suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts after the extremely hot coffee spilled in her lap while seated in a car after visiting the drive-in window.
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