Does anyone else besides me think the legal system sometimes gets a little wacky?
I came across a news item that is both amusing and infuriating, if that’s possible. According to the Miami Herald, “Chalk’s Ocean Airways claims the Grumman Turbo Mallard was “not adequately designed for its intended purpose,” and sued Grumman over a seaplane crash. ” The 58 year old seaplane crashed in 2005 killing 18 passengers and two crew members after a wing separated. Wings don’t just fall off and this one didn’t either: corrosion and fatigue were noted as the probable cause. The last one was built in 1951.
Never mind that these aircraft have literally flown all over the world for decades and this was the last one in commercial service. The Herald: ”Chalk’s lost everything,” said John Eversole, the company’s lawyer, said. “They were put out of business by the defective nature of this airplane. It is as simple as that, and to be wrongly blamed by the NTSB is even worse for your reputation.”
The NTSB noted that the airline failed to fix fatigue cracks and the FAA failed to provide proper oversight of the airline’s maintenance. I can see how that might be damaging to a company’s reputation, especially if the facts were supported.
Plaintiffs suing manufacturers on decades old aircraft has some similarity to a reported lawsuit filed by NASCAR against Cessna for what appears to be an electrical fire. That resulted in a fatal accident with a 30-year-old Cessna 310. ASF is watching that one closely and will be attending an NTSB hearing later this month. Stay tuned. The General Aviation Revitalization Act, or GARA, limits manufacturer liability to 18 years but there are exceptions.
We agree that manufacturers need to be responsible for their products but is it only in aviation that companies can be held liable indefinitely? It will be interesting to see if the legal system has the integrity to seriously question what I believe is an unjustified suit – without running up a huge tab.
Aging aircraft need special care and ASF has an online course to help you deal with the practicalities, if not the legalities. Aging Aircraft Interactive Course.