Holidaymaker’s claim for injuries caused by ‘obese’ passenger set for appeal

A holidaymaker who says he was injured by being forced to sit next to a man “the size of Jonah Lomu” on a British Airways flight is set to take his case to the Court of Appeal.

Stephen Prosser, 51, claims 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 in January 2016.

A county court judge dismissed his case against the airline in November, finding that Mr Prosser had “exaggerated” the description of the other passenger.

District Judge Andrew Barcello 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.

At a hearing in London on Tuesday, Mr Prosser’s lawyers will attempt to overturn the previous ruling.

Mr Prosser, a self-employed civil engineer, told Pontypridd County Court last year that the other passenger was 6ft 4in and weighed approximately 22 stone, claiming he reminded him of the late New Zealand rugby union player Jonah Lomu.

Mr Prosser, who is 5ft 3in, 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 left him with a continual back spasm and an injury causing the sacroiliac joint at the bottom of his spine to dysfunction.

He claimed 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.

But 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”.

British Airways’ barrister Timothy Salisbury suggested Mr Prosser’s description of the other passenger as reminding him of Mr Lomu was a “colourful explanation”.

In his ruling, Judge Barcello said Mr Prosser was “articulate, intelligent and forthright”.

The judge added: “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 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.”