Pas­sen­ger loses claim for be­ing in­jured while sat next to obese man

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - News -

A HOL­I­DAY­MAKER has lost his claim against Bri­tish Airways af­ter say­ing he was in­jured by be­ing forced to sit next to an obese man who was “the size of Jonah Lomu”.

Stephen Prosser, 51, had claimed he suf­fered per­sonal in­jury and loss of earn­ings af­ter be­ing made to sit next to the large pas­sen­ger dur­ing a 12-hour flight from Bangkok to Heathrow.

On Thurs­day last week, how­ever, his civil claim against the air­line at Pon­typridd County Court was dis­missed by District Judge An­drew Bar­cello, who said Mr Prosser had “ex­ag­ger­ated” the de­scrip­tion of the other pas­sen­ger.

The judge said that while Mr Prosser may have ex­ac­er­bated a de­gen­er­a­tive spinal con­di­tion dur­ing the flight, he could have just asked to swap seats with another pas­sen­ger.

Judge Bar­cello said: “He is ar­tic­u­late, in­tel­li­gent and forth­right. He need only have ex­plained to fel­low pas­sen­gers that he was find­ing the flight un­com­fort­able, rather than know­ingly sub­ject him­self to an in­ju­ri­ous event.

“In my view, his state­ments were in­tended to in­crease the size of the claimed en­croach­ment and to cre­ate an ex­ag­ger­ated pic­ture, rather than a gen­uine ac­count.

“I ac­cept that the pas­sen­ger in seat 37J was a large man, both in the sense that he was very tall, broad and car­ried sig­nif­i­cant body weight. It is likely that there were oc­ca­sions when, as a re­sult of his size or his move­ments within his chair, that he did cause an in­con­ve­nience to Mr Prosser. “But I do not ac­cept the sug­ges­tion that his size was such that Mr Prosser was com­pelled to sit in an awk­ward way for the du­ra­tion of the flight by virtue of him en­croach­ing upon his seat­ing area.”

The judge added that Mr Prosser had “un­re­al­is­tic” ex­pec­ta­tions of how much room he should have had “given the class of cabin he chose”. Mr Prosser, a self-em­ployed civil en­gi­neer, had told the court ear­lier this month that he chose not to leave his seat be­cause do­ing so would “has­sle” the other pas­sen­ger get­ting up and did not take is­sue with him be­cause he seemed “self-con­scious”.

Mr Prosser de­scribed the man as be­ing 6ft 4in and weigh­ing ap­prox­i­mately 22 stone, and claimed he re­minded him of late New Zealand rugby union player Jonah Lomu.

Mr Prosser, who is 5ft 3in tall, said: “He was that large that he had to force his but­tocks be­tween the arm rests of the seats.

“He sat with his knees wedged against the seat in front and the rest of his body was over­spilling into my seat by some inches.”

Mr Prosser, from Peny­graig in Tony­pandy, South Wales, said the in­ci­dent in Jan­uary 2016 left him with a con­tin­ual back spasm and an in­jury caus­ing the sacroil­iac joint at the bot­tom of his spine to dys­func­tion.

He said he had been un­able to work over­time for three months as a re­sult of his back pain, and it had left him lack­ing en­ergy which had af­fected his re­la­tion­ship with his part­ner and forced him to give up moun­tain bik­ing.

Jack Harding, rep­re­sent­ing Mr Prosser, said a fig­ure of £4,100 had been sub­mit­ted for the loss of earn­ings claim.

Chris McLin­don, the cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager on board the flight, said in a wit­ness state­ment that Mr Prosser did not seem to be in any dis­com­fort and “at times he was asleep”.

Fol­low­ing the ver­dict a spokesman for Bri­tish Airways said: “We are pleased that the court agreed that Mr Prosser had room to fly com­fort­ably.

“Our cabin crew will al­ways do their best to make sure all our cus­tomers have a smooth jour­ney, and in this case pro­vided ex­tra pil­lows and blan­kets to help Mr Prosser sleep.”

He was that large that he had to force his but­tocks be­tween the arm rests of the seats

Stephen Prosser

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