Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flight 1549 Passengers Lawyer Up

This story and video is more than enough reason to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal Blog, not only a remarkable depiction of the drama of the aborted flight and watery crash of a US Airways jet last month, but a story surrounding- what else- the potentiality of lawsuits.

To the credit of everyone so far, as this article points out, a tremendous amount of restraint has been shown. With full credit to the WSJ, and just a teensy little bit of comment afterwards, here is their entire piece:

We’ll admit it. Shortly after Sully Sullenberger pulled off his miraculous landing in the Hudson River last month, visions of lawsuits danced in our heads.

We weren’t exactly sure what these hypothetical lawsuits would look like, mind you, given that the passengers all survived, with only a few suffering minor injuries. But we tried out some theories, nonetheless, trying to gauge what the suits might request. Damages for emotional pain? Money for lost luggage? We took it even farther: What if the aborted flight caused someone to miss a job interview in Charlotte? Could that get wrapped into a claim?

Well, we just might find out! Another WSJ blog —
The Middle Seat Terminal — is reporting today that more than a dozen passengers from the flight have contacted a well-known aviation accident law firm, Kreindler & Kreindler, to “learn more about their rights after the accident.”

That said, Andrew Maloney, a lawyer at the firm said the firm wasn’t necessarily filing a suit. “Right now we’re trying to do the responsible thing and investigate the incident,” Maloney said. “And that’s what we’ve told people who’ve contacted us.”

US Airways has ponied up a little already. The airline sent passengers $5,000 checks — plus reimbursing airfare — the weekend after the accident. The carrier also upgraded all passengers on board to “
Chairman’s Preferred” status, entitling them to automatic upgrades, exemptions from baggage fees and bonus miles for a year.

The gut reaction is that of course these guys should get medals, not lawsuits. And it would be hard right now to get a jury to think otherwise. But the lawyer in me asks, what if we discover that air traffic control was negligent in not warning that there were flocks of birds seen in the vicinity earlier in the day? What if the probe of the aircraft reveals maintenance deficiencies? What if the black box recordings surprisingly disclosed improper procedural techniques utilized by the crew at takeoff?

Aircraft accidents, Dr. Josephine King taught be in Torts during my first year of Hofstra Law School, were res ipsa loquitor. It speaks for itself. Your contract with the airlines was for a plane ride to a location. You did not bargain for a Disney ride down Magic Mountain to end up in the water. So, yeah, winning a verdict might be tough, but lawyers have a duty to represent persons who may have been physically injured or emotionally traumatized by the crash. Your duty as a lawyer is not to do what is popular in the public eye. It is do what is right for your client.

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