Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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In this case, Glen Pace, a Mississippi resident, appealed the dismissal of his claims against multiple corporate defendants over personal injuries he suffered in a Texas airplane crash. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi dismissed the claims against the out-of-state defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction and held that the two Mississippi defendants were improperly joined, which allowed removal to federal court.Upon review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. The appellate court agreed that Pace failed to state a claim against either in-state defendant, and thus, they were improperly joined. As for the out-of-state defendants, the court found that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The court reasoned that the aircraft crash, any equipment failure, and the injuries all occurred in Texas, and Pace's subsequent medical treatment and damages in Mississippi did not constitute an actual injury felt in the state for the purpose of establishing personal jurisdiction. The court held that Pace's injuries from the crash occurred in Texas and his subsequent medical treatment in Mississippi were "consequences stemming from the actual tort injury," which do not confer personal jurisdiction.The court also denied Pace's request for jurisdictional discovery, stating that Pace failed to present specific facts or reasonable particularity regarding jurisdictional facts. The court stressed that its decision should not be interpreted as implying a view on the merits of Pace’s claims. View "Pace v. Cirrus Design Corp" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling entering judgment in favor of the US in a negligence suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”).  The Seneca was piloted by Nisha Sejwal, with Ralph Knight accompanying her. The Cessna was piloted by Jorge Sanchez, with Carlo Scarpati, a student pilot, also on board. Both planes were “VFR” aircraft operating under standard visual flight rules. The Seneca was departing from, and the Cessna was arriving at, the Tamiami Airport (now known as the Miami Executive Airport) when the collision occurred. The representatives of the pilots’ estates filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), alleging negligence on the part of Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) air traffic controllers at the Tamiami Airport. Following a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the United States, and the Plaintiffs appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs contend that language in the district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law “suggests” that it improperly considered evidence of comparative negligence—an affirmative defense under Florida law—in making its ultimate finding that the controllers were not negligent. In particular, they point to the district court’s statements that there was (1) conflicting evidence about how the planes approached each other prior to the collision and (2) evidence that both planes were equipped with TIS devices and that the Seneca’s TIS device was functioning earlier in the day prior to the collision. The court concluded that the district court did not improperly consider evidence of comparative negligence but rather based its decision on Plaintiffs’ failure to prove the elements of their negligence claim. View "Perry Hodges, et al. v. USA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the federal government under the FTCA, alleging one count of battery. A magistrate judge recommended dismissing Plaintiff’s suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in a detailed memorandum devoted solely to whether the FTCA waives sovereign immunity for the type of claim Plaintiff brought. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation. The district court concluded it need not review the recommendation de novo because Plaintiff failed to object with sufficient specificity and, in any event, “the Magistrate Judge’s proposed conclusions of law are correct and are consistent with current case law.   The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the district court erred in concluding Plaintiff did not adequately preserve her claim for review. The court explained that a party wishing to avail itself of its right to de novo review must be “sufficiently specific to focus the district court’s attention on the factual and legal issues that are truly in dispute.” The court concluded that Plaintiff cleared that bar.   Further, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the FTCA permits people who allege they were assaulted by TSA screeners to sue the federal government. View "Erin Osmon v. US" on Justia Law

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Kelly Day appealed the district court’s dismissal of the diversity action she filed against SkyWest Airlines for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when a SkyWest flight attendant carelessly struck her with a beverage cart. The district court granted SkyWest’s motion to dismiss the action as preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”), which preempted state laws “related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with sister circuits that personal-injury claims arising out of an airline employee’s failure to exercise due care were not “related to” a deregulated price, route, or service. Therefore, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Day’s action and remanded for further proceedings. View "Day v. SkyWest Airlines" on Justia Law

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Southwest Airlines passenger Ilczyszyn suffered a massive pulmonary embolism while locked inside an airplane lavatory during the final stages of a flight from Oakland to Orange County. Rather than treating Ilczyszyn’s circumstances as a medical emergency, the flight crew perceived him to be a security threat; he did not receive medical care until after the flight had landed and the other passengers had disembarked. By then, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Although he was resuscitated, he later died in a hospital.A jury found that Southwest was negligent but found against the plaintiffs on the issue of causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court properly found that Southwest was immune from liability under both 49 U.S.C. 44941 (Aviation and Transportation Security Act), and Civil Code section 47(b) for any act or omission occurring after the flight crew decided to treat Ilczyszyn’s medical emergency as a security threat. The court rejected arguments that these statutory immunities apply only to the actual disclosure of a security threat, not to conduct associated with such disclosures, and that the immunity is inapplicable here because the gravamen of their case was based solely on the flight crew’s negligent failure to identify the medical emergency. View "Ilczyszyn v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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Sikkelee was killed when a Cessna aircraft he was piloting crashed after taking off from North Carolina's Transylvania County Airport. The aircraft had a Lycoming engine; Sikkelee's widow alleged the aircraft lost power due to a defect in the design of the engine and its carburetor. The FAA had issued Lycoming a type certificate for the engine, certifying that the design performs properly and satisfies federal regulations. Sikkelee’s widow brought strict liability and negligence claims against Lycoming, alleging design defect. The Third Circuit held that Sikkelee’s state-law claims are not barred based on the doctrine of field preemption. On remand, the district court concluded the claims were conflict-preempted and that Lycoming was entitled to summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims based on Pennsylvania law. The court granted Lycoming summary judgment on Sikkelee’s claim that Lycoming violated 14 C.F.R. 21.3 by failing to notify the FAA of the alleged defect. The Third Circuit reversed in part, rejecting an argument that Sikkelee’s claims were conflict-preempted because FAA regulations made it impossible for Lycoming to unilaterally implement design changes Pennsylvania law allegedly would have required. Lycoming has not produced clear evidence that the FAA would not have allowed it to change the design set forth in the type certificate. Summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims was inappropriate because there are genuine disputes of material fact concerning causation. Summary judgment was proper on the failure-to-notify-the-FAA claim. View "Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp" on Justia Law

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The anti-discrimination prohibition in the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA) is not enforceable through an implied private cause of action. The ACCA prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of a physical or mental impairment. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim against Southwest that alleged a violation of the ACCA. The panel joined the Second, Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits in concluding that, in light of the ACAA's statutory structure, Congress did not intend to create a private cause of action under the ACAA. Therefore, plaintiff's claim was properly dismissed. View "Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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Doe and her daughter flew aboard Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Chicago. During the journey, Doe’s tray table remained open because a knob had fallen off. Doe’s daughter found the knob on the floor; Doe placed it in a seatback pocket. When a flight attendant reminded Doe to place her tray in the locked position for landing, Doe attempted to explain by reaching into the seatback pocket to retrieve the knob. She was pricked by a hypodermic needle that lay hidden within, which drew blood. Doe sought damages from Etihad for her physical injury and her “mental distress, shock, mortification, sickness and illness, outrage and embarrassment from natural sequela of possible exposure to” various diseases. Her husband claimed loss of consortium. The court granted Etihad partial summary judgment, citing the Montreal Convention of 1999, an international treaty, which imposes capped strict liability “for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft.” The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in reading an additional “caused by” requirement into the treaty and concluding that Doe’s bodily injury did not cause her emotional and mental injuries. The Convention allows Doe to recover all her “damage sustained” from the incident. View "Doe v. Etihad Airways, P.J.S.C." on Justia Law

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Claiming that the FAA, DOT, and SSA violated the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a(g)(4)(A), by sharing his records with one another, respondent filed suit alleging that the unlawful disclosure to the DOT of his confidential medical information, including his HIV status, had caused him "humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, fear of social ostracism, and other severe emotional distress." The District Court granted summary judgment against respondent, concluding that respondent could not recover damages because he alleged only mental and emotional harm, not economic loss. Reversing the District Court, the Ninth Circuit concluded that "actual damages" in the Act was not ambiguous and included damages for mental and emotional distress. Applying traditional rules of construction, the Court held that the Act did not unequivocally authorize an award of damages for mental or emotional distress. Accordingly, the Act did not waive the Government's sovereign immunity from liability for such harms. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remanded for further proceedings. View "FAA v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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Claiming that the FAA, DOT, and SSA violated the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a(g)(4)(A), by sharing his records with one another, respondent filed suit alleging that the unlawful disclosure to the DOT of his confidential medical information, including his HIV status, had caused him "humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, fear of social ostracism, and other severe emotional distress." The District Court granted summary judgment against respondent, concluding that respondent could not recover damages because he alleged only mental and emotional harm, not economic loss. Reversing the District Court, the Ninth Circuit concluded that "actual damages" in the Act was not ambiguous and included damages for mental and emotional distress. Applying traditional rules of construction, the Court held that the Act did not unequivocally authorize an award of damages for mental or emotional distress. Accordingly, the Act did not waive the Government's sovereign immunity from liability for such harms. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remanded for further proceedings. View "FAA v. Cooper" on Justia Law