Settlements Reached In Plane Crash Lawsuit That Killed Eight
Settlements have been reached for five victims of a fatal plane crash. Eight were killed including the pilot and his son who was a pilot in training. Four teenagers died in the crash. According to the lawsuit, they were returning from a hunting trip piloted by the defendant’s company. The settlement figure will compensate the families of six victims.
Lawyers for the families alleged that a bizarre exchange between the pilot and air traffic control heralded the crash. The plane kept veering into controlled airspace and air traffic control repeatedly attempted to alert the pilot. At one point, communication broke off, but air traffic control was able to reestablish it. By then, the plane had begun a rapid ascent before the radar went dark. Eventually, it was found in the ocean.
It is believed that the plane entered restricted airspace due to poor weather and visibility. The pilot became spatially disoriented causing the plane to ascend rapidly before he completely lost control.
Elements of negligence
We don’t know specifically what happened, but we know that it wasn’t the fault of the passengers for their own deaths. So, it becomes difficult for the defense to present a theory of the case that does not involve negligence. While the plaintiff may not know precisely how or why the plane crashed, there were indications that the pilot was having some problems. The problems may not have come down to operator error, however.
Even if the pilot operates the plane properly, a plane is a complex machine and requires maintenance. If the plane isn’t working properly and this leads to a crash, then the defendant is still liable.
The defendants can claim that the passengers were messing with the pilot, covering his eyes, or otherwise harassing him. In that case, the liability would shift to the plaintiffs. But it seems unlikely that even teenagers would bother a pilot while he was in the air. So, while in the realm of possibility, it is not in the realm of plausibility.
When it comes to civil cases, juries decide the matter on what is most likely. If your only defense to a fatal plane crash is that the victims harassed the pilot causing him to crash the plane, a jury is more likely to believe that did not happen than it did. So, being within the realm of possibility doesn’t defeat the allegations. The defense must be as likely as the allegations made by the plaintiffs.
So, in a case like this, the defense cannot present a theory of what happened that does not include some element of negligence, they will lose the case anyway. Here, they settled the suit and avoided further costs related to defending it.
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