JetBlue Passengers Sue Airline Over Injuries After Turbulence Causes Plane To Drop

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When a JetBlue flight got into turbulence that eventually landed 27 people in the hospital it all looked like an unfortunate incident but now a lawsuit alleges the pilots ignored a storm and endangered passengers.

Two federal lawsuits have since been filed in Sacramento, CA to determine responsibility of the airline in the event and appropriate compensation (if any).

While lawsuits of any nature aren’t a surprising phenomenon anymore in the U.S. this case is interesting because it shines light on how much responsibility JetBlue bears for this incident and if the pilots acted negligent in whatever way when operating the Sacramento bound flight.

The Sacramento Bee (see here) reported about the ongoing case.

JetBlue Airways Flight 429 from Boston to Sacramento last Aug. 11 took off at 6 p.m. on a Thursday for what should have been a six-and-a-half hour trip. Instead, the plane hit violent turbulence that forced an emergency landing in Rapid City, S.D., and sent 24 passengers and three crew members to a local hospital for treatment. …

Now, the incident is the subject of two lawsuits in federal court in Sacramento, the most recent filed Wednesday on behalf of two passengers who say they suffered neck and other injuries that require medical treatment to this day.

The latest lawsuit, filed by Michelle Hill, a Sacramento County resident, and Ariel Epstein Pollack, a Yolo County woman, alleges that the JetBlue crew “disregarded the threat of a major thunderstorm over South Dakota.”

“JetBlue then flew Flight 429 directly into that thunderstorm,” the lawsuit claims. “During this time, JetBlue chose not to advise its Flight 429 passengers to stay seated with seatbelts fastened.

“As a consequence, the thunderstorm’s sudden and severe turbulence threw passengers repeatedly about the cabin and into the ceiling. Many passengers and crew were unrestrained.”

Michelle Hill was one of those, the lawsuit says. Hill was returning from the restroom and had sat down but not yet strapped on her seat belt when the plane hit turbulence and “she flew up and hit her head on the ceiling,” the lawsuit says. Ariel Pollack had her seat belt on and was sleeping at the time, but when the turbulence hit “she flew out of her seat and slammed back down with a great force.”

Does this case really have merit? The question of how serious the weather condition really was and what options commercial airline pilots have to circumnavigate adverse weather such as a storm would like be the subject of expert testimony if the cases go to trial.

Meanwhile the involved law firm has stirred controversy for their advertisement practices.

The firm’s website apparently got under JetBlue’s corporate skin in the Phan lawsuit, with the company’s attorneys complaining that Friedman Rubin is using the lawsuit “as a marketing tool” to attract more clients.

JetBlue complained in court papers that “the day after filing the lawsuit,” Friedman Rubin posted a notice saying it was leading the litigation against JetBlue and “if you were injured on a flight, anywhere in the United States, contact Friedman Rubin and tell us your story.”

“This is an abuse of litigation and discovery and it should not be tolerated by the court,” JetBlue’s attorneys argued in court papers objecting to efforts to add Hill and Pollack to the Phan suit.

Does the call for people to come forward with ‘their story’ really serve the purpose of discovery or is this a hidden advertisement technique and the law firm would pitch their services to those who come forward in order to file other lawsuits? My good guess is that the latter is at least a very good possibility.

Conclusion

Nobody wants an accident and pilots don’t like to perish either. I don’t believe that a pilot would knowingly fly into a situation he would deem to be dangerous. Then again there have been errors of judgement before as they happen every day in different ways of life. It will be interesting to see if there is going to be a trial or a settlement of the case.

Essence of this situation is that it’s best to wear your seat belt at all times as soon as you have the chance to sit on your seat.

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