As for liability, everything depends on what jurisdiction you'll be able to work. If it will be the European (continental - based on Napoleonic Code) law, then you're liable for every damage you have caused, and the factor of 'recklessness' or 'guilt' is unimportant.
So the question will arise, who have caused the damage to the laptop, which is not obvious.
If you place your laptop on the middle of the street, and someones drive on it, you will be the one that have damaged it - by placing it on the middle of the street - not the driver. So if you place your laptop in unadequate place, and therefore the damage, you can expect the court will find you responsible for the damage.
But if you have placed your laptop on the desk, and the passanger before you have reclined rapidly without looking back, they will be most likely responsible for the damage - the same as if they throw it out of your hand by rapid movement.
However, if you can prove, that the seats are so designed, that such damages are too likely to happen, the airline may be made responsible - it all depends on what the judge will find 'too likely' or 'badly designed'. If the seat decline when pressing a button which is easy to press accidentally, it's very likely the responsibility of the airline.
It would be hard to find suitable precedent, because each of such cases will be handled individually.