A RYANAIR passenger, who claimed she was injured after a plane struck the runway on takeoff at Dublin airport, lost a €38,000 damages claim for physical and psychological injury against the airline today.
Barrister Peter O’Brien, for Ryanair, told the Circuit Civil Court that under the Warsaw and Montreal Convention, Roisin Hartshorn, a programme manager, was not entitled to damages for psychological harm unless she could relate it to a physical injury.
Mr O’Brien said the first time Ms Hartshorn had complained of a psychological injury being triggered by pain in her right foot was in September last, four years after the incident.
Ms Hartshorn, (31) of Coolawinna Park, Ashford, Co Wicklow, and now living in London, told the court she was on a Ryanair flight to London in September 2008 when the tail struck the runway on takeoff at Dublin Airport.
“The air hostess became panic stricken, screaming ‘oxygen’ and ran towards the front of the plane,” she said.
The oxygen masks had fallen but not the ones above her middle seat in a back row. She felt a tightness in her chest. The air hostess returned and had given her a hairgrip and her identity badge to help release the oxygen compartment above her seat.
A male passenger released her oxygen mask by hitting it a thump. Before that she and a friend had been sharing a mask handed to them by a passenger in another row of seats.
“I was freaking out and panicking,” she said. “I felt the plane was going to crash. About 20 minutes later it made an emergency landing at Dublin,” Ms Hartshorn said.
Ms Hartshorn said she wrenched her foot under a seat during the incident. Later she had developed a fear of flying and post traumatic stress disorder. She suffered anxiety attacks and nightmares in which she could see the panic stricken air hostess.
She told the court her foot sometimes still swells up after standing for long periods. When her foot injury flared she would suffer a panic attack in which she would see the air hostess again.
Judge Jacqueline Linnane said she accepted Mr O’Brien’s submission that Ms Hartshorn had exaggerated the injury to her right foot. Apart from having sought treatment for it immediately after the incident she had not raised the matter again until September 2012 when associating it with her psychological trauma.
Dismissing her claim and awarding costs to Ryanair, Judge Linnane said:
“I do not accept any problems she may have regarding her foot triggers any anxiety or panic attacks. I also do not accept any anxiety attack or fear of flying flows from or is caused by flare ups of her foot injury.”
The judge said that although Ms Hartshorn had told the court she had stopped using Ryanair because she had no confidence in them, the airline’s records revealed she had flown with the company on 26 occasions between 2008 and 2011.