Commercial Aviation Cases
Baumeister & Samuels has represented injured passengers and crew and the families of those killed in almost every major commercial airline disaster that has occurred in recent years. Members of the firm have served in leadership roles on the Plaintiffs’ Steering and Executive Committees formed to manage the litigation in each of these cases. The following is a list of just a few of the more notable recent commercial aviation cases the firm has handled. More information on many of these crashes may be found in Examples of Our Work.
Continental Connection Flight 3407 - February 12, 2009
A Q-400 turboprop aircraft crashed on final approach to runway 23 at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in Buffalo, New York. The flight crew improperly monitored their instrumentation throughout the descent and approach which placed the aircraft in an unsafe flight profile. In addition, the flight crew’s response to the activation of the stick shaker caused the aircraft to enter an aerodynamic stall from which the pilots could not recover. All 45 passengers, 4 crew members and an individual on the ground were killed in the crash.
Comair Flight 5191 Lexington, KY – August 27, 2006
Shortly before daylight and after being cleared to depart on the only runway suitable for use by commercial aircraft, a Comair regional jet aircraft attempted to takeoff from a shorter unlit runway restricted for use only by small general aviation planes at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky killing all 47 passengers and 2 crew members. The only survivor was the First Officer who was at the controls at the time of the crash. Evidence uncovered during the preparation of the case for trial focused heavily on the adequacy of the training provided by Comair to its flight crews.
Air Midwest Flight 5481 Charlotte, NC – January 8, 2003
A Beechcraft 1900D turboprop aircraft departed Charlotte/Douglas International Airport for a flight to Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina. As a result of improper maintenance, the plane crashed into a US Airways maintenance hanger shortly after taking off killing all 21 people on board.
Pan Am Flight 103, Lockerbie, Scotland – December 21, 1988
The Boeing 747 “Maid of the Seas” aircraft was destroyed when an improvised explosive device disguised inside a portable plastic radio carried in a suitcase in the aircraft’s cargo hold detonated over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers on board were killed, as well as 11 residents of the village of Lockerbie. Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, a known Libyan terrorist with connections to Libyan Prime Minister Ghadafi, was ultimately convicted of carrying out the bombings during a trial before Scottish judges in the Hague World Court which concluded in January 2001. In October 2002, Mitch Baumeister was one of the attorneys who successfully negotiated a historic $2.7 billion dollar settlement agreement with the government of Libya to compensate the families of the victims.
American Airlines Flight 587, Belle Harbor, NY – November 12, 2001
An Airbus A300 aircraft headed to the Dominican Republic was climbing out of New York’s JFK Airport when the vertical stabilizer broke off in mid-air. This caused the aircraft to break apart as it fell from the sky killing the 260 people on board. Parts of the aircraft fell in a residential neighborhood in Belle Harbor, NY and 5 people were killed by falling debris. The litigation proceeded against both the aircraft manufacturer for design failures, and the airline for actions taken by the flight crew.
American Airlines Flight 11, New York, NY – September 11, 2001
American Airlines Flight 11 was the first of the hijacked flights involved in the September 11th terror attacks. The aircraft departed from Boston’s Logan Airport shortly after 8:00 AM and was overtaken by a team of terrorists who killed the flight crew and assumed control of the aircraft. At approximately 8:46 AM, the terrorists deliberately crashed the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center killing all 92 people on board and thousands of others who were in or near the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
United Airlines Flight 175, New York, NY – September 11, 2001
United Airlines Flight 175 was the second hijacked flight on September 11, 2001. This aircraft also departed from Boston’s Logan Airport shortly after 8:00 AM and was also overtaken by a team of terrorists who killed its flight crew to assume control of the aircraft. At approximately 9:03 AM, the terrorists deliberately crashed the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center taking the lives of 65 people on board and thousands of others who were in or near the South Tower.
American Airlines Flight 77, Washington, DC – September 11, 2001
American Airlines Flight 77 was also hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001. The plane departed from Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC at approximately 8:20 AM and was overtaken by terrorists who killed the flight crew and seized control of the jetliner. At approximately 9:37 AM, the terrorists intentionally drove the plane into the Pentagon. A total of 189 people lost their lives, including 125 people who were at work in the Pentagon.
United Airlines Flight 93, Shanksville, PA – September 11, 2001
United Airlines Flight 93 was the final flight hijacked on September 11, 2001. The aircraft departed from Newark International Airport at approximately 8:42 AM and it too was quickly overtaken by terrorists who killed the flight crew and assumed control of the aircraft. Numerous cell phone calls were made by the passengers and crew members from the plane during which they were notified of the terror attacks taking place throughout the country. Passengers became aware that the airplane had deviated from its flight plan and was headed towards Washington, DC presumably to meet a similar fate. Horrified that it was the intention of the terrorists to crash the plane into the White House or the Capital Building, several of the passengers on board rushed the cockpit and engaged in a valiant struggle to regain command of the jet. During the battle that ensued, control of the aircraft was lost and the plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 AM killing all 44 people on board.
Alaska Air Flight 261, near Point Magu, California – January 31, 2000
The MD-83 aircraft was flying from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to San Francisco, California, when the flight crew reported problems with the stabilizer trim. The pilots attempted several maneuvers in an effort to correct the problem, all of which were unsuccessful and the aircraft plunged into the Pacific Ocean in an inverted flight attitude killing all 88 individuals on board. In the aftermath of the crash, evidence was gathered which showed that several individuals employed in the airline’s maintenance facility in Oakland, California had falsified maintenance records, giving rise to punitive damage claims.
Egypt Air Flight 990, off Nantucket Island in the Atlantic Ocean – October 31, 1999
Approximately 30 minutes after taking off from New York’s JFK Airport, a Boeing 767 aircraft bound for Cairo, Egypt with 217 people on board entered into a rapid descent and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nantucket Island. After taking many depositions of individuals employed by the airline and several employees of the hotel where the crews stayed while on layovers, it was revealed that the relief pilot may have been mentally unstable. It is believed that he intentionally placed the aircraft into a dive from which there was no chance of recovery.
Swissair Flight 111, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – September 2, 1998
An MD-11 aircraft was approximately one hour into a flight from JFK Airport in New York to Geneva, Switzerland when the crew reported the presence of smoke in the cockpit. For almost 30 minutes, the flight crew reviewed the airplane’s flight manuals trying to troubleshoot the source of the smoke instead of executing an immediate emergency landing. The smoke condition soon evolved into fire in the cockpit resulting in the flight crew’s loss of control and the aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Peggy’s Cove. The investigation conducted by the Canadian Transportation Safety Board indicated that the fire may have been started by the ignition of the aircraft's insulation. All 229 people on board perished.
Comair Flight 3272, Monroe, MI – January 9, 1997
While on approach to Runway 3R at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, an Embraer 120 turboprop aircraft operated by Comair crashed killing all 29 on board. The evidence obtained during the discovery process revealed that ice had accumulated on the plane during the descent. Contributing to the accident was the flight crew’s use of autopilot in known icing conditions which masked the degradation of the aircraft’s flight characteristics as a result of ice accretion. Due to the ice build up, the aircraft entered an aerodynamic stall from which the crew could not recover.
TWA Flight 800, off the coast of Long Island, New York – July 17, 1996
A spark within the center fuel tank on the Boeing 747 ignited fumes in the near empty tank which resulted in an explosion while the aircraft was climbing to 13,000 feet shortly after departing from New York's JFK Airport en route to Paris, France. All 230 people on board were killed. The crash focused attention on the dangers associated with aging wiring on aircraft and the need to eliminate possible ignition sources so as to prevent a similar event from taking place on board another Boeing 747.
ValuJet Flight 592, into Florida Everglades – May 11, 1996
The DC-9 aircraft crashed into the Florida Everglades shortly after taking off from Miami International Airport killing all 110 people on board. During the litigation, it came to light that oxygen generators had been improperly packed and placed on board the aircraft in violation of federal law. During the flight, the oxygen generators ignited which lead to a fire that ultimately burned through the aircraft’s control cables and penetrated the passenger cabin. ValuJet’s maintenance contractor, SabreTech, was criminally charged and found liable for placing the improperly packed and labeled generators aboard the aircraft.
Atlantic South Airlines Flight 7529, Carrolton, GA – August 21, 1995
An Embraer 120 turboprop aircraft was climbing after takeoff from Atlanta, Georgia, when one of its propellers separated from the engine assembly and became imbedded in the leading edge of the wing forcing the flight crew to make an emergency landing. While only 8 of the 29 people on board were fatally injured, others sustained severe and permanent injuries. The discovery conducted during the litigation revealed that this and other propellers had not been properly inspected or maintained.