The family of a man killed in a Florida plane crash has finally overcome a lower court's ruling that their wrongful death lawsuit could not move forward. This week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that federal aviation law did not protect the airplane company from this particular civil lawsuit.
In 2005, a small plane carrying a doctor crashed after initial takeoff. According to the report, the plane took off and then suddenly and unexpectedly stalled mid-air. This was a problem that had also been reported several times earlier that day in the same plane. Unable to get enough speed, the plane fell and crashed into the ground. Both the plane's pilot and the doctor were killed in impact.
After the accident, the doctor's family filed a lawsuit against the airplane company. But the lawsuit was halted when the lower court deemed that the deaths occurred on land, protecting the company from liability according to federal aviation law. The man's family appealed and the case finally landed in front of the Florida Supreme Court.
By a vote of 5 to 1, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit could proceed. With regards to the federal aviation law, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the law does in fact apply to injuries and damages that occur on land. However, because the man was in the aircraft when the crash occurred, the law did not apply.
While this decision does not necessarily mean the man's family will be awarded compensation for their loss, it does present the opportunity to move the lawsuit forward. In addition, this type of lawsuit can hold the company accountable for these types of incidents in the future.
Source: The Ledger online, "Court Rules Lawsuit In 2005 Plane Crash Can Go Forward," Michael Wilson, 11 July 2011