April 18, 2019

Safe US Airways Landing May not Avert Claims Splash and Courthouse Dash

When I first heard of the miraculous landing of the US Airways Flight 1549 jet in the Hudson River two weeks ago, my first reaction was, “Oh boy – here come the lawsuits.” True confessions from a hard boiled cynical claims person. Even though each passenger survived the landing due to pilot “Sully” Sullenberger’s heroics, I assumed lawsuits would be filed. Grounds might include soft tissue injuries from the bumpy maritime landing, to mental anguish from fearing a crash to exposure to cold during the rescue process.

Now it looks like I may have been premature in my suit-happy assumptions. (See, “Savvy US Airways Pilot May Have Grounded Lawsuits,” http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2009/01/23/97196.htm

Some say that the pilot may have not only averted a tragedy, he may have averted lawsuits. Moreover, flying into a flock of geese might be termed an “Act of God.” Still, I figured lawyers would find some theory of liability, like a different jet engine design would be more impervious to bird strikes, or that the aircraft lacked equipment to detect bird flocks or that the airport authority knew of the bird peril but failed to alert the airline. God forbid that there be no deep pocket to sue! This is, well, un-American!

Pundits are having fun with the splash, though, some suggesting that . . .
• US Airways’ new marketing slogan should be, “One if By Land – Two if By Sea!”
• Each flight will now have an on-board cruise director as well.
• To generate revenue for the cash-starved airline, US Airways might consider charging $25 apiece for each personal flotation devices used.
• All on-board music courtesy of the group, “Flock of Seagulls.”

Since all passengers and crew survived, we can now chuckle . . . at least until the Summons and Complaints are served.

Too bad the aviation lawyers cannot sue the geese, especially since it is rumored that the birds were distracted in flight by text-messaging each other … Alas, no liability coverage on the geese. (This coverage gap may be an issue befitting the Loyal Order of the Blue Goose, come to think of it.)

Other aviation lawyers are having none of the “Act of God” spiel. By golly, there has got to be someone to blame! (Better still if they have liability insurance coverage.) I often quote the anonymous sage who once said, “Death is not the end; there remains … the litigation.”

When it comes to aviation mishaps, perhaps we can say the same about safe landings.

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