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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  • nostresshere

    End Result: Pilots will keep the seat belt on even more.

    • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

      End result: I’d sue too. You can get a safer flight path.

      • nostresshere

        So, based on the knowledge you have, there was a better flight path that day? We should have had you in the cockpit.

        • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

          Yes there was. Go north or south of it. I remember this event very well. Many people questioned why they flew through. Divert, it’s not rocket science.

  • colin

    before takeoff cabin-crew-members announcement always suggest that you keep your seatbelt fastened at all times, AND even fastened when the seatbelt light is off. This is a get out of jail (responsibility) card for the airline and individual flight

    So in effect only time you should not wear seatbelt is with light off, and you need to leave your seat. Where turbulence is encountered already OR imminently expected Pilots switch on seatbelt signs

    As such , this lawsuit is without merit, should not be persued. It is only persued as USA has the no win no fee system foir plaintiffs.

    • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

      No it’s not. It’s like your taxi driver intentionally driving into a tropical storm. Pilots can fly around weather. They have more than ample notice to steer around it.

      • colin

        Not a chance in hell, Not all turbulence shows on the dopler radar in an aircrafts nose, no pilot deliberately goes into major turbulence unless no choice,

        I fly 80x a year and on half those flights I am get turbulence whilst in my seat before rhe pilots announce turbulence and put seatbelt lights on.

        If passenger hits a ceiling etc, then the plane suddenly drops, canbe 50m can 200m or more. Th has zeroe pilots can not see in advance or react to the situation that causes such drops.

        Lawsuit has zero chance

        • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

          We are not talking about clear air turbulence – this was a known, severe weather event that was on radar. Don’t lecture down to me because I’m black. Divert flight path. If this makes airlines think twice about this, good for these passengers. Sue.

          • nostresshere

            Please share where someone “lectured you because you are black”. I could not find it and if it is not there, then your comment was racist and should be edited/removed.

  • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

    I agree. I would sue too. This is crazy. We all have weather apps on our iPhones. It’s BS thatbthe pilots could not have flown around this storm. It’s crazy.

    • nostresshere

      Amazing that we have somebody here with such KNOWLEDGE of what took place. Were you on that plane? Were you analyzing the weather patterns?

      Shame on you.

      • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

        Shame on you for talking down to me because I’m black. I remember this event well. Could’ve been avoided.

        • Cape Crusader

          Lashaniqua … you make very valid arguments and I agree with your positions 100%
          However, although some of the responses to you may have been snippy, I don’t see any evidence that anyone was ‘talking down to you because you’re black.’
          You lose all credibility when you start playing the race card where there is none. Stick to the facts, lose the chip on your shoulder and defend your position … you seem very capable of doing that.

        • nostresshere

          Wow. Where did that come from? Black?

      • nostresshere

        Meanwhile – since you have all the facts. How high were these storm cells. How far north and south was the storm that they could have gone around? Are you saying the pilots saw the storm and made a decision to fly through it vs going around it and even while KNOWING it was bad decided not to notify the FA’s and leave the seat belt sign off? How much warning did the pilots have of this storm? Hour? Minutes? Seconds?

    • nostresshere

      Do you have some links to where this weather was “well known” and what options the pilots were able to take and did not? You do realize the weather app on your phone would be of marginal use to a pilot at 35,000 feet flying 500 mph – right?

  • Lashaniqua Johnson (St. Louis)

    THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. That bad weather front was well known that day.

  • nostresshere

    From a CNN report the day after the incident. Repeated for others as some posters here are already very familiar with this incident and know more than I do. “The plane encountered a line of thunderstorms in central South Dakota, according to a flight path analysis by CNN meteorologists Monica Garrett and Chad Myers. After passing through a first storm, the plane came upon a second, which the pilot attempted to fly over or around. The significant turbulence was likely caused by one or both storms.
    “While some turbulence can’t be detected on radar, this was not that kind,” said Brandon Miller, a producer with CNN’s World Weather team. “This turbulence was caused by the rapid rising of air inside the thunderstorms.”
    “You can see thunderstorms, both from the cockpit and on radar,” Miller added. “Pilots know there is turbulence in the storms and do their best to fly around or over them. Although they tried, they could not do that in this situation.”

    • nostresshere

      Since some know more than what has been shared, maybe they can share the facts they have with the rest of us.