Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > PPRuNe Social > Jet Blast
Reload this Page >

Pilots, Airlines, lawyers and liability

Jet Blast Topics that don't fit the other forums. Rules of Engagement apply.

Pilots, Airlines, lawyers and liability

Old 15th Jan 2010, 08:19
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Uh... Where was I?
Posts: 1,342
Pilots, Airlines, lawyers and liability

You know one of those lawyers who sue big corporations like car manufacturers or tobacco producers?
Or airlines…

I think there is a lawyer or group of lawyers specialized in suing airlines when people die or get injured in airplane accidents or incidents. I would like to contact these lawyers, to share with them a thought that I think it may be of interest to them. And to us, as well.

Many times I have read that the situation that the pilots are facing would change only after an accident occurred (the “smoking hole on the ground”). I think that is very sad, and I hoped that this was not necessary.

I have learnt with time that corporations have fear of “liability”, however. A friend told me that in the airline he flies, the SOPs were written by both pilots and lawyers. Some say that Boeing or Airbus think it twice before changing anything in the FCOMs or AFMs because a lawyer could use that change against them with regard to a long past accident.

My point is: if an accident occurs in which the crew could have been significantly more proficient and experienced had they been carefully selected (based on their experience, background and talent rather than merely in their ability to pay type ratings and have low wages or even pay to fly)… Could a lawyer make the airline pay for that?

That is what I would like to ask them. Only such lawyers can tell. Because it occurred to me that should that be the case, all the airlines would have to change the way they hire pilots.

I imagine a lawyer investigating the CVs of much more qualified pilots applying for a job in such an airline and finding that they only hired low experienced ones who actually paid for flying. This finding would be surprising for any jury or judge. Let alone for the families of the deceased…

Do you guys know how to contact these lawyers?
Microburst2002 is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 10:46
  #2 (permalink)  
Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Derbyshire, England.
Posts: 4,061
You would have to be able to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the pilots (lack of) experience was directly responsible for the accident and that this made the employer culpable. Best of luck.
parabellum is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 13:06
  #3 (permalink)  
Red On, Green On
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Between the woods and the water
Age: 20
Posts: 6,485
I imagine a lawyer investigating the CVs of much more qualified pilots applying for a job in such an airline and finding that they only hired low experienced ones who actually paid for flying. This finding would be surprising for any jury or judge.
But if the flightdeck crew met/exceeded CAA licence/experience reqs then I can't see a judge going far with that argument, even if the lad/lass in the RHS was low on hours.
airborne_artist is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 14:21
  #4 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Canada
Posts: 1,852
I think there is a lawyer or group of lawyers specialized in suing airlines
Yes, seek and ye shall find - try Google and I'm sure you'll have some luck.

The place to sue is the USA where juries often are very generous
rotornut is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 14:34
  #5 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: LAX
Posts: 68
I don't handle aviation accident negligence cases, but here are my off the top of my head thoughts:

It would be exceedingly difficult to make a case for negligent hiring when the appropriate regulatory body has deemed an individual legally qualified to operate the aircraft. Moreover, one would have to establish, by preponderance, a causal relationship between lack of experience and the accident in question. Given the usual pattern of accidents being multi-factorial in nature, I should think that would generally be difficult and, if that was the sole basis for the lawsuit, not likely to get past a motion for summary judgment. Note, though, that the foregoing assumes that the inexperienced pilot truly met the legal requirements. If someone unqualified passed a checkride because they were paying to work, things would be quite different. Even then, I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to leave evidence of it behind.

The argument you're making is one that would be vehemently opposed by business outside of aviation, because it would establish a legal principle that there is a duty to hire the most qualified person available for a given job. While there are days I wish that principle were applied to government, it's a pretty broad principle that to date has not found a foothold in any jurisdiction of which I am aware. Remember that the doctor (or lawyer) who graduated last in his class will wind up working somewhere. One of the functions of having minimum regulatory requirements is, in theory, to establish a baseline of minimum acceptable competence; the doctor who finishes last in his class but passes the state board exams is legally deemed to be as qualified to practice medicine as the one who graduated first. Your legal theory stands in opposition to that principle.

The usual disclaimers about this not being legal advice, etc. apply to this post.
mseyfang is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 14:42
  #6 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Hiring is one thing, maintaining proficiency is quite another. Minimum quals having been satisfied at hire, it is incumbent upon the line to monitor their crew members continuously. This is the litigial hole, in my opinion, and recent accidents suggest a new sub-specialty may be under development at prestigious firms.

Old 15th Jan 2010, 15:11
  #7 (permalink)  
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: UK
Posts: 464
It is an interesting question. Having worked for a company that flew mostly into China the experience factor of knowing how things are done in China was very important. However Human Resources view was that any pilot with a licence was qualified to do the job.

When the B scale salary was brought in the more experienced A scale salary pilots started to be forced out with the cheaper B scale pilots taking over. I can remember one particular pilot at the end of his command training being put back 6 months or so for command because he didn't appreciate the requirements of a certain chinese ATC. He was a perfectly competent pilot. He just wasn't aware of certain eccentricities in China, one of which only became apparent toward the end of his training with a normal F/O in the right seat and the training captain in the jump seat.
Flap 5 is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 15:28
  #8 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: west sussex
Posts: 217
all people start off inexperienced at some point

even the best were one day inexperienced

and even the best have sometimes made mistakes

and the making of a mistake does not always prove negligence


I think on the basis of the information supplied in your post......you have an uphill battle ahead of you
D SQDRN 97th IOTC is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 15:59
  #9 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
It generally surprises the neophyte Plaintiff when told that safety is a "variable".
Old 15th Jan 2010, 16:39
  #10 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Canada
Posts: 338
The place to sue is the USA where juries often are very generous
Fortunately those bodies who hear appeals of such generosity frequently are a lot more realistic. Of course those outcomes do make such spectacular headlines.
innuendo is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 19:15
  #11 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Somerset England
Age: 58
Posts: 351
Just going off at a slight tangent a moment, this is something I have experienced with the various applications I have presented to Airlines.

Say you take 10 guys/ gals with the bare minimum qualifications, Frozen ATPL CPL/IR what ever you want to call it.

Then you have 10 guys/gals with in excess of 3000 hours and rated on the type the airline flys.

If X or Y or Z airline then chooses to only interview/ hire the 10 with the bare minimum time, could a case not be put forward that the more experienced guys/gals have been discriminated against on the basis of the experience level they have?

This is given that the salary and terms and conditions are the same for both parties and that all are of an age where we can leave out that as a factor!
Flying Farmer is offline  
Old 15th Jan 2010, 22:17
  #12 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: NSW, Australia
Posts: 58
I agree generally with mseyfang, but comment that just because someone has passed a test prescribed by the relevant regulatory body so as to be permitted to fly does not mean that they are competent, or more relevantly, competent on the flight relevant to the cause of action.

There is also the overlying impact of international conventions, which in countries party to those conventions might limit or exclude certain liabilities, and legislation in some countries that go further than those conventions.

It is complex, and I think the OP makes a decent point, but I doubt liability exposure will cause airlines that employ low time pilots because they cost less (or nothing, or pay to fly) will chane their practices. If there is to be a change it would seem more likely to be by the consumer, who wants the safest flight possible for the lowest price.

Same qualification to myseyfang's post!
BrianG is offline  
Old 17th Jan 2010, 09:05
  #13 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Uh... Where was I?
Posts: 1,342
Lawyers, Airlines, Liability and Pilots

IGNORE THIS POST,though it is slightly different, I keep it just in case somenoe wnats to read it. It took me time and don't want do delete

There is something that every corporation is scared of: Liability

A friend of mine told me that in the airline he works for, the SOPs have been written by both pilots and lawyers. Another one, who is an an engineer, told me that changes in aircraft manufacturer FCOMs and AFMs are very complex because they have to be extremely careful with liability, since lawyers could use it against them with relation to long past accidents.

In another PPRuNe post I have read about "Ambulance chasing Lawyers" specialized in suing airlines. Like those who are disapointed with the Hudson river ditching passengers, because none wanted to sue US Air.

I think these lawyers would have a deadly weapon to use against an airline with a Pay to Fly (or similar) pilot hiring scheme if there was a crash. Because the crew could have easily been more proficient and experienced had the seleccion process been "conventional" instead of PTF.

Sadly, a "smoking hole on the ground" seems to be necessary for the authorities to intervene and put an end to the situation pilots are facing now.
In such a case, probably judges and juries would be the first authorities to intervene. Then followed by changes in regulations.

I can imagine one of these smart and ambitious lawyers dramatically showing the Judge and the Jury (like in the movies) a very thick pack of experienced pilots resumees ignored by that airline and then, in the other hand, the files of the PTF ones who were actually hired. I can also imagine the feelings of the victims and their families.

They could make that airline pay through the nose for it. And would probably make the others to abandon such ways of hiring pilots. Or else, pay a lot more money for insurance... After all, Airlines are not Cigarrete companies. They can change the product and make it less harmful.

I don't know if this is applicable to the Buffalo crash, as I am not familiarised with the case. Probably not. But I think that it is a matter of time that such an accident will occur.

Will we able to make things change before it occurs?

We should. For ourselves, and to avoid that accident.

Last edited by Microburst2002; 18th Jan 2010 at 05:33.
Microburst2002 is offline  
Old 17th Jan 2010, 23:11
  #14 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Dublin
Posts: 515
Complete nonsense, Your friend is listening to locker room Boll^^Ks . Whilst AvMed and Avsec may be modified to allow for legal issues, health and safety etc, the majority of airline SOPs are based around the manufacturers SOPs, they have to be or the cost of updates and alignment with system mods would be prohibitive. Pax liability issues are always covered under the ticketing conditions, that's what the "Convention" dictates and common employment law, safety in the workplace and duty of care are standard contract issues. I would ignore this dribble if you are serious about the industry and try not to get another PTF debate going under the slim disguise of this "issue".
Kirks gusset is offline  
Old 18th Jan 2010, 01:01
  #15 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 309
This is all a bit moot.

Carriers liabilities are as stipulated in the applicable international convention - eg: Montreal Convention, Warsaw Convention etc... or for non-international flights according to the country's domestic liability regime.

Liability is usually "strict" (ie no need to prove negligence of carrier) in exchange for a limited $ exposure.

Eg: in Australia domestic flights are strict liablilty & limited to A$500,000. International flights now subject to Montreal 1999 (subject to country of destination/origin's applicable convention) and is strict liability for proven damages up to 100,000 SDR's, and thereafter unlimited but with the carrier able to avoid liability if they prove they are not liable.

I think you are flogging a dead horse here Micro....

Diatryma is offline  
Old 18th Jan 2010, 05:43
  #16 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Uh... Where was I?
Posts: 1,342
Thanks you all for your replies.

I would like to ask something, as you guys seem to know about laws, unlike me.

Is it legal to pay to work? I don't mean to fly, but to work. Because if someone wants to pay an airline to let him fly a 737 from here to there, or to do touch and go, it is his money. But if there are passengers back in the cabin who bought tickets then this pilot is working for the airline.

What do they do? sign a contract as a worker and another contract as a customer of the airline who is buying something to that airline?

Are there any other similar cases in other proffessions?

Microburst2002 is offline  
Old 18th Jan 2010, 17:53
  #17 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Dublin
Posts: 515
There are two issues here and two sets of rules:

The PTF guy is Not paying to work, he/she is paying to be trained and may well have a training contract with the airlines setting out clearly the terms of reference and what if any expenses are covered whilst training.
Once the line check is passed they are " consolidating" and there is a strong case that this can be up to 1500hrs with 500 multi crew as then the ATPL can be issued. Part of their "training" will be to carry out the duties of a pilot in the multi pilot environment on the type in question and there is no reasonable limit to the time this would take. I once worked with a legacy carrier that deemed it would take two years to be eligable for an FO upgrade from SO as the knowledge bank they required took this long to accumulate.
As there are precidents set for both minimum "training" and " Competence" It is highly unlikely this practice of " Paying to be trained" will ever be deemed illegal. Most airlines have a stipulation regarding the number and mix of crews "operating" which is one reason we see backlogs in this area.

The second rule regarding pax is straight forward, provided the aircraft is on a public transport AOC and the crews are " Qualified" then there is no laws being broken. " Qualified" means being type rated and either flying under supervision or when released or "observing". I mention the last as some airlines carry "qualified" jump seaters to extend the FDPs and allow for crew changes. There is no requirement for a jump seat pilot to have been released to the line to perform this " duty"

In legal jargon, the " Customer" is the pax, they are buying a product or service. the " Trainee" is not a customer as they are " Compensating" the airline for the costs of the training.

Hope this helps.. KG
Kirks gusset is offline  
Old 18th Jan 2010, 22:41
  #18 (permalink)  
quidquid excusatio prandium pro
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 351
Every flight is a potential gravy train...

We had a recent event that might have bearing on this discussion, although not strictly within the framework of the thread at hand, a reflection of the practices employed by certain lawyers nonetheless.

On pushback, the tug crew noticed a largish dent in one of our engine cowlings, rendering the aircraft unairworthy. Grounded, call the engineers. Apparently a ramp vehicle had caused it minutes before departure, the vehicle operator in question not bothering to report, no doubt in fear of losing his employ.

Back on the gate, with replacement parts nowhere in close proximity, the passengers were deplaned. One of them, a very tall, elegant and expensively dressed woman, a lawyer, of what persuasion I never bothered to find out. To my dismay, she began to solicit other passengers’ opinions, had they been financially compromised by this delay, missed meetings, connections, and so forth, and would they be interested in collectively suing the airline for damages and compensation.

What does that say about our society?

Now, I’m certain the legal profession hold their own to very specific moral guidelines, in theory at least, I see much of that right here on Jetblast, evidenced by those who post with considerable intelligence and foresight. Astonishingly free of charge I might add. What aspect of a lawyer’s very considerable and hard-won education would allow someone like this to slip through, something like this to happen?
bugg smasher is offline  
Old 19th Jan 2010, 06:58
  #19 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Germany
Age: 72
Posts: 1,561
You must be joking! "Slip through"? This is the norm: people trained to use the legal system to their and their clients' advantage. You try to help them by explaining something and the next thing you know your own words are used to hang you out to dry. Inhuman greed is the norm for these slimeballs, what they are taught by the legal system with the rationale being "If I don't do it then someone else will," for grabbing with both hands and devil take the hindmost.

Google Arthur Wolk and the Wolk Law Firm for an example of a lawyer who specialises in aviation cases. I could say something different about him but then it would have to get wiped to avoid a libel case so why bother?

What I can say is that the intrepid Mr Wolk bought a Grumman F9F Panther with his earnings but then stacked if off the end of a runway after something went awry with his attempt at aviation there. If that had been someone else having the same misfortune then the fluttering of dark vulture wings should have been heard just after the sirens fell silent but this time Mr Wolk had no one to sue but himself, I fear. Call that poetic justice if you like.

Last edited by chuks; 19th Jan 2010 at 11:24.
chuks is offline  
Old 19th Jan 2010, 08:28
  #20 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: 3433N 06912E
Posts: 389
poetic justice indeed chucks..

A quote from the film 'Blade II'

"Are you a Vampire too?"

- "No! I'm worse, I'm a lawyer!"
Bruce Wayne is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.