Liability in Air Plane Accidents

Perhaps no other occurrence in aviation is more feared than an airplane crash. Airplane crashes are often deadly for the passengers and devastating for the families of passengers. They can come about in a variety of ways, including pilot error, misfueling, poor maintenance of an airplane, or defective components within the airplane. Fortunately, airplane crashes are a relatively rare occurrence.

A recent airplane crash illustrates how one of these cases works. In the case of Delacroix v. Doncasters, Inc., several skydivers boarded a plane. After takeoff, one of the engines on the plane ignited and the plane crashed. Six passengers aboard the plane died.

During the investigation of the incident, it came to light that the plane crashed because the blades used in the engine that failed were defectively manufactured. What is more, there was evidence that the manufacturer of the blades knew that the blades were being defectively manufactured, and allowed them to be sold anyways.

A jury heard the evidence in the case and awarded the families of five victims $4 million dollars each ($20 million total) in wrongful death damages. Wrongful death damages consist of compensation that is given to families of people who lost their lives due to the negligence of others. Wrongful death damages can vary widely depending on such factors as the court hearing the case, personal characteristics of the victim, local precedent, and, most significantly, the whims of the jury determining compensation amounts.

The real shock, however, came when the jury assessed an additional punitive damages award against the manufacturer of $28 million, or roughly $5.6 million per victim. Punitive damages refer to damages assessed against a party that behaved exceptionally badly in causing the accident. Punitive damages serve the purpose of punishing the bad actor, and, as in this case, can exceed underlying damages. The jury in Delacroix v. Doncasters evidently felt that the manufacturer’s attempt to hide the defect in the blades was egregious behavior, and used the lawsuit as a chance to send a message to the manufacturer. This award was upheld on appeal, and each victim’s family received $4 million in wrongful death damages with an additional $5.6 million in additional punitive damages, for a total award of $9.6 million.

Statistically, very few people will be affected by a plane crash. Those who lose a loved one in a plane crash may actually be entitled to compensation in the millions of dollars, depending on how the plane crash was caused and whether any of the actors behaved in an egregious manner. If you have lost a family member in a plane crash, or if you personally have been involved in a plane crash, you may wish to contact an experienced aviation attorney to help plan your case and maximize the compensation you may receive.

If you or a loved one have been injured, Call Carabin Shaw at 1.800.862.1260. We Can Help.

Visits with the Attorney are by appointment only. Main office San Antonio, Texas.

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