Lourdes Cervantes filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Chicago's United Continental Holdings Inc., Continental's successor company, over the incident aboard an Aug. 1, 2011, Continental flight from Madrid to Newark, N.J., the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday.
The lawsuit states that as a flight attendant was placing a cup of hot coffee on the tray table attached to the seat in front of Cervantes, the person in the seat reclined the seat.
"This caused the coffee to slide off of the tray table and spill into Plaintiff's lap," the suit states.
Cervantes suffered second-degree burns from the incident and required medical treatment, the lawsuit states. She also has permanent scars on the affected areas.
The lawsuit cites the 1999 Montreal Convention, which mandates compensation of victims of air accidents on international flights.
Cervantes is seeking $170,550, the maximum allowable under the Montreal Convention, for bodily and emotional injuries and other damages.