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Tenn. woman suing Southwest Airlines for hot-water burns

Dec. 9, 2012 at 4:13 PM

SMYRNA, Tenn., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A Tennessee woman is suing Southwest Airlines for $800,000 for burns suffered when she spilled hot water for tea on herself during a flight, her attorney says.

Angelica Keller, 43, of Smyrna, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight last year, suffered second-degree burns and skin blisters when she spilled the water on her lap. She accuses the airline of negligence, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Sunday.

Southwest Airlines' court-filed responses say Keller picked her front-row seat, where she knew there was no drop-down table, and was thus negligent when she spilled the hot water on herself.

Since the 1992 case of a New Mexico woman who won a $2.7 million judgment against McDonald's after she spilled hot coffee on herself -- an amount later reduced to $640,000 and then chopped further in an undisclosed settlement -- states nationwide have passed tort reform legislation to stop such suits and cap jury awards, The Tennessean noted.

Tennessee passed its version of the legislation in 2011.The state's cap for awards in such tort cases is $750,000 in pain and suffering damages. If the case is considered "catastrophic," the award cannot exceed $1 million.

About $300,000 of the amount Keller is seeking is for damages for pain and suffering.

About half of the states in the country cap pain and suffering awards, but suits have been filed in recent years challenging those limits, the newspaper reported.

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