Yanling Yu was aboard Korean Air flight KE 85 from JFK to Incheon International Airport last October when a flight attendant “spilled a… cup of boiling hot coffee on [her] lap, causing her to sustain grievous personal injuries near her genital area, with attendant special damage,” according to a civil lawsuit obtained by The Daily Beast.
The suit, which was filed Feb. 5 in New York State Supreme Court, accuses the airline and the flight attendant of “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” for the spill, and says Yu “has become sick, sore, lame and disabled… did expend large sums of money for medical care and attention and will be required to expend additional sums of money for medical care in the future to attend to her injuries which she believes to be of a permanent nature.”
Yu’s attorney, Victor Bota, told The Daily Beast that Yu’s injuries were “serious.”
“Under the Montreal Convention, airlines operating international flights are strictly liable for injuries to passengers on board their aircraft,” Bota said. “By bringing this lawsuit, Ms. Yu intends to hold the airline responsible for the injuries she sustained as a result of the flight attendant’s negligence.”
A Korean Air spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The case bears resemblances to a 2022 lawsuit filed by a passenger who claimed a Korean Air flight attendant spilled scalding-hot tea onto her lap, causing “burns to her legs, both thighs and the area in between,” and “possible permanent cosmetic deformity and scarring.” (Adding insult to injury, the suit said the cabin crew “refus[ed] to permit [the passenger] to purchase a business class seat with extra leg room after she had been burned.”)
The South Korea-based airline has faced other coffee- and hot-beverage-related lawsuits in recent years.
In 2017, a Korean Air passenger sued the carrier after a flight attendant allegedly put a cup of hot coffee down on his tray table while the plane was being bumped and jostled by turbulence, sending the scalding liquid into his lap and causing terrible burns. And in September, a passenger flying Korean Air from Guangzhou, China, to Seoul said he nearly swallowed a glass shard served to him in a cup of iced coffee. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, the man “had to disgorge the food he ate in the aircraft's lavatory following the cabin crew's guidelines in case he swallowed more pieces.”
The airline reimbursed the man for his medical expenses and gave him a $75 voucher, the newspaper reported.
In her lawsuit, Yu is demanding damages to be determined in court, plus interest, along with legal fees “and such other and further relief as to this Court deems just and proper.”