Teenager Sues Virgin Australia For Burn Injuries After Coffee Cup Slides Off Broken Tray Table


A teen aged passenger of Virgin Australia is suing the airline for negligence after a cup of coffee slid off his defective tray table, causing substantial burns around the groin area.

va-b777The young mans father provided first aid during the flight while the flight attendants at some points refused to supply him any more water bottles to cool the burns.

There are a couple things in this story that sound weird and don’t really make sense but that’s more or less always the case when it comes to these cases.

Read for yourself as Travel + Leisure (see here) wrote a story about the recently filed lawsuit.

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,” “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.

If I see that the tray isn’t properly in position why put a hot beverage on it? Aside from that, a 16 year old who drinks coffee? Well, I guess stranger things happen in life.

I’m not sure what the passengers did with the water bottles in terms of cooling the burns but the reaction of the crew puzzles me a bit. They don’t have enough water bottles for a 15 hour flight from the US to Australia? How big were these bottles??


If I see a broken table in front of me I won’t put a cup of boiling hot coffee on it, that’s just common sense. Apparently it’s not a virtue too many people have these days just like folks who require a written reminder on their cups that the beverage inside is hot.

Maybe our Australian readers can chime in and estimate what chance such a lawsuit has in an Australian court. In the U.S. it would be likely that both parties would reach a substantial settlement before the case goes to trial.

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