By Lilit Marcus, CNN
The ongoing debate about whether it’s acceptable to recline your seat while traveling has taken a turn in China’s Hunan province after a man was fined for leaning back on a train.
Court documents released in November saw officials take a dim view of the March 2022 incident in which a university student, identified only by his surname, Wang, had his laptop damaged while on a train to the city of Wuhan.
Wang had been using his recently purchased computer on a foldable seat-back table when the man sitting in front, named Liu, reclined — right into Wang’s laptop, breaking the screen.
After getting his laptop fixed, Wang subsequently sued Liu for RMB 4788.50 ($685) to cover the cost of repairs and travel to a police station to report the incident.
The Xiangyin County People’s Court in Hunan ruled both parties were partly responsible for what happened, with Liu 70% at fault because he reclined his seat in the first place and Wang 30% to blame because he should have been more careful.
As a result, Liu was ordered to pay RMB 3341.45 ($478.15) — 70% of the amount Wang sued for.
In its decision, the court pointed out that notices were posted on the train reminding people to check with the passenger behind them before reclining their seats.
Although this case seems to be an isolated incident, the discussion around seat reclining etiquette has long been contentious.
And, until now, it has mostly been limited to airplanes.
But with more airlines eliminating short-haul flights and encouraging travelers to make the greener choice of going by train, more airline-style conflicts about transportation manners could erupt on the rails.
Top: image of a laptop on a foldable train table via Adobe Stock
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CNN’s Wayne Chang contributed reporting.