Man sues Etihad over 'injuries' from sitting next to obese passenger

Etihad argues it isn't liable for any injuries because there was no accident or unusual circumstances.

(CNN)Obesity is already a big issue in aviation, now a court case in Australia could make it even bigger.

Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad is being sued by a man who claimed that being seated in economy next to an overweight passenger during a flight from Dubai to Sydney left him with back injuries.
James Bassos says he was required to "contort and twist" his body to avoid contact with his neighbor, who coughed frequently and "expelled fluid from his mouth," according to court papers.
"After repeated requests of cabin crew, Mr Bassos was given limited access to a crew seat but was still required to spend long stretches of time in a position which he claims caused a back injury and aggravation of an existing back condition," the papers reveal.
    Eithad has tried to have the case, which relates to a flight in October 2011, dismissed.

    'No accident'

    It argues that it isn't liable as any injuries sustained would not be the result of an accident.
    The airline says it's not unusual to be seated next to obese or coughing passengers.
    But Brisbane district judge Fleur Kingham refused throw out the case and has ordered medical checks on Bassos.
    Although the outcome is far from clear, any ruling against the airline could have further ramifications for obese passengers already being turned away by some carriers or required to book extra seats.
    Etihad said in a statement that it can't comment on the case as legal proceedings are active.
    "Etihad Airways will continue to oppose the action and now that Mr Bassos will finally face a medical assessment in December 2015, as directed by court, we believe that the matter will proceed to an early conclusion," it said.
    "The safety and comfort of Etihad Airways' passengers and crew is of paramount importance and the airline has a zero tolerance policy towards unruly behavior."