British Columbia

WestJet sued over failed attempt to store overhead luggage

A woman claims she got a concussion after being struck on the head, as a fellow WestJet passenger was trying to stuff her luggage into an overhead bin.

Shaia Lynn Ellen Bredeson claims woman's bag fell on her head as she was attempting to stow luggage

A woman is suing WestJet over injuries she claimed she suffered when she was hit on the head by a bag a fellow passenger was trying to stuff in an overhead bin. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

A woman claims she got a concussion after being struck on the head, as a fellow WestJet passenger was trying to stuff her luggage into an overhead bin.

Shaia Lynn Ellen Bredeson is suing the Calgary-based airline in B.C. Supreme Court for damages she claims she suffered in November 2017 while waiting to fly from Vancouver to Edmonton.

Bredeson claims she was seated when "luggage fell from the overhead bin" and struck her on the head.

She is also suing the unnamed passenger — called "Jane Doe" in the notice of civil claim.

"The incident occurred in the course of the defendant Jane Doe attempting to store luggage in the overhead bin above (Bredeson's) seat in an improper or dangerous manner," the lawsuit reads.

'A fellow passenger dropped a bag'

WestJet has not filed a response to the lawsuit. The company would not comment on the lawsuit while it is before the courts.

Bredeson is claiming an unspecified amount for damages which allegedly include a concussion, post-concussive symptoms and "aggravation of anxiety."

The woman claims she was waiting for a WestJet flight from Vancouver to Edmonton when she was struck by a fellow passenger's luggage. WestJet would not comment. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Although watching fellow passengers struggle to stuff unwieldy bags into the confined and defined spaces of overhead bins is a common cause of complaint among airline customers, the issue doesn't appear much in Canadian courts.

The United States is a different matter though.

Earlier this year, a former Southwest Airlines passenger sued the budget airline after claiming that an "infirm" passenger dropped a bag on his head while he was trying to place it in an overhead bin.

American courts have also heard cases involving allegations of bottles falling from overhead bins onto a plaintiff's head.

And in 2015. a California judge dismissed a suit against United Airlines filed by a woman who claimed she lost consciousness after another passenger dropped his bag on her head as he was trying to stow it for the flight.

In that case, the judge found that airline staff had done nothing improper, as the unidentified passenger — known as "John Doe" — appeared to be at fault.

"The evidence shows that a fellow passenger dropped a bag on her head," the judge wrote. "Not that the bag (fell) out of  a defective compartment."

'Any or any adequate steps'

Bredeson is suing WestJet for negligence and breach of statutory duty.

She claims the airline failed "to take any or any adequate steps to ensure that luggage in the overhead bins did not constitute a hazard."

She also accuses WestJet of "failing to provide any or any adequate direction or assistance to passengers in stowing their luggage."

Bredeson claims the airline ought to have known that Jane Doe would have difficulty stowing her luggage. She also says Jane Doe should have asked for assistance.

Bredeson did not respond to a request for comment. None of the allegations have been proven in court.  

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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