Plaintiff in this case was a 45-year-old man who suffered a severe spinal injury when the passenger jet plane that he was flying in hit a wind shear, creating a severe turbulence causing the plaintiff to bounce out of his seat and smash the top of his head against the overhead luggage storage section.
The defense retained a number of experts from around the country to testify that
- The wind shear that caused the turbulence was undetectable
- That the seatbelt sign was on at the time of the turbulence and had been on for approximately 30 seconds
- That plaintiff had not been wearing his seatbelt
- The force of the impact was not capable of causing a spinal cord injury
The pilot and co-pilot testified under oath that there was no reason to suspect a wind shear and that they clearly remembered turning the seatbelt sign on at least 30 seconds before the plaintiff’s injury because they felt “slight turbulence.”
The flight attendants all testified that the seatbelt sign was on at the time of plaintiff’s injury.
The law offices of Winer, McKenna, Burritt & Tillis LLP, by retaining an aviation expert and reviewing the flight information and flight log, as well as taking the testimony of other passengers and other pilots from other airlines flying in the area, was able to establish that:
- A pilot from another airline had passed through the area of the wind shear approximately 30 minutes before the plane in which plaintiff was a passenger, and had sent out a warning of the wind shear to all planes in the vicinity including the plane in which plaintiff was a passenger.
- That documents indicating that the seatbelt sign was turned on before the plaintiff’s injury were suspicious for having been altered and that almost every passenger whose deposition was taken testified that the seatbelt sign did not go on and an announcement was not made for people to put on their seatbelts until a significant period of time after the turbulence began.
- The law firm retained a biomechanical engineer who testified that the reason that plaintiff suffered a more severe injury than other passengers who were not seat belted was because he was eight inches taller than the average person and sat very erect.
RESULT: Confidential settlement on behalf of plaintiff