Man in China fined $750 for tilting his train seat

The Xiangyin County People’s Court in Hunan ruled that both sides were partly responsible for what happened. Photo/NZHerald

To bow or not to bow (and by how much)? That is the question. One apparently responded in China, where a train traveler was fined for backing up too far.

A man was fined after pushing his seat too far back on a train bound for Wuhan in March 2022, according to court documents released in November.

Although leaning back in his seat is not a crime in China’s Hunan province, where the incident took place, this traveler leaned over a passenger’s new laptop computer behind him.

A university student, identified in the documents by his last name, Wang, was using his new laptop on the seat back table when the passenger in front of him, named Liu, tilted the seat into the laptop, breaking the screen.

After going to a police station to report the incident and then having the laptop repaired, Wang sued Liu for RMB 4,788.50 (NZ$1,075) to cover the costs.

So who was at fault? According to the Xiangyin County People’s Court in Hunan, both parties shared responsibility. As the person lay down, Liu was deemed more at fault, and the court pointed to posters on the train asking passengers to look behind them before lying down. However, he claimed that Wang should also have been more careful with his new laptop.

As a result of the ruling, Liu was ordered to pay 70% of the amount for which Wang sued; 3341.45 RMB (NZ$750).

This isn’t the first time a generous tilt has damaged a passenger’s laptop. In February 2020, an American traveler shared his experience of a passenger reclining his seat fully and crushing the screen of his Apple Mac laptop.

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While most disputes over seat recline don’t lead to broken laptops and lawsuits, it’s still a controversial topic among travelers. Even celebrities aren’t spared the problem, with Hilary Barry digging into the debate earlier this year.

However, as train travel is encouraged on short-haul flights, we may see more people wondering how far is too far when it comes to reclining a train seat.

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