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Cleveland man scalded by spilled hot coffee, tea on flight sues United Airlines

by Staff

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cleveland man has sued United Airlines, alleging that he was scalded by hot coffee and tea when a flight attendant spilled them on him.

Matthew Somogye accused the airline of negligence and causing severe pain and scarring on his arm in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland.

Somogye’s lawsuit, filed last month, said the airline should have ensured that all hot beverages were covered with lids.

United declined to comment.

On Sept. 23, 2022, Somogye boarded a United flight from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Los Angeles on his way to Hawaii for a vacation, according to the lawsuit.

Turbulence hit while the flight attendant passed out the drinks from a hand tray. Several drinks spilled onto Somogye’s arm. The hot liquid caused his hoodie sleeve “to suction to his right arm,” severely burning him, according to the lawsuit.

He “lurched up out of his seat and shouted in pain in a desperate attempt to strip off his sweatshirt,” the lawsuit said.

A flight attendant brought him paper towels to dry up the liquid. Somogye looked down and saw bright red “splotches” on his forearm and upper arm, according to the lawsuit.

A Cleveland Clinic dermatologist, who happened to be on the same flight, treated Somogye’s burns, both on the flight with cream and then later with a prescription. The doctor also checked on him when they got to Hawaii, according to the lawsuit.

United initially offered Somogye $100 and later upped it to $300, according to the lawsuit. Somogye declined and later cut short his vacation to return to Cleveland for further treatment.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Matthew Doney, said Somogye continues suffering from long-term scarring on his arm, and he is working with a plastic surgeon to repair the damage.

United attorney Christopher Cotter asked a judge to dismiss the part of the case that seeks punitive damages and attorneys fees, arguing that the lawsuit does not allege that United employees purposefully caused the burns to Somogye’s arms.

U.S. District Judge J. Philip Calabrese has not yet ruled on United’s motion.

Adam Ferrise covers federal courts at and The Plain Dealer. You can find his work here.

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