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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Air France's very expensive cup of coffee

By Rodrigo Amaral, Madrid
Email Author

French airline Air France has been ordered to pay €146,000 in damages after being deemed responsible for injuries suffered by a passenger who claimed to have drunk a 'poisoned' cup of coffee during one of its flights.

A court in Bobigny, near Paris, has decided that the airline was responsible for the ills suffered by Marc-Fredaine Niazaire in 2006 and as a result it has to pay him €46,000 in compensation.

A further €100,000 must be paid to Essone's Caisse Primaire d'Assurance Maladie, the official body that originally carried the costs for Mr Niazaire's treatment.

He claimed to have needed an oesophagus operation after drinking a cup of coffee that was contaminated with a 'very toxic solution' used to unblock drains as he flew from Bordeaux to Paris.

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A criminal case was first brought by Mr Niazaire, but was dismissed by the courts after experts concluded that no fault could be attributed to Air France, according to reports.

But the passenger subsequently filed a civil suit that found the airline responsible for the accident. The compensation, however, fell well short of the €680,000 originally demanded by Mr Niazaire.

Air France has not commented on the decision.

The case highlights the growing risk faced by French companies of being the target of civil liability suits by third parties.

The theme will be discussed during the annual meeting of Association pour le Management des Risques et des Assurance de l'Entreprise, AMRAE, from 8–10 February in Deauville, France.

French risk managers have pointed out that their companies can be affected by liability risks from several fronts, including civil, criminal and environment-related suits.

But most insurance products available in the market usually cover only one liability risk by policy. Risk managers have urged insurers to develop global solutions that could be applied to all liability risks.

The compensation imposed on Air France adds to a number of high profile cases of civil liability involving French companies in recent times.

The latest one involves Poly implant Prothèse, a producer of breast implants accused of using toxic substances in its products.

The company faces a flood of suits in several countries from women who have been implanted with the product.

Caisse National d'Assurance Maladie, the French government's health insurer, has also announced it will pursue PIP for compensation in the courts.

Medical practitioners who performed breast implants with the toxic product have also been the targets of lawsuits in France.

·       CRE will once again publish daily newspapers at the AMRAE conference for delegates in Deauville next month and update the rest of the readership on the big news stories via our electronic newsletter. The March issue of the newspaper will carry a full analysis of the key news and views from the French market.

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