Plane crashes are rare, but when they occur, the consequences are typically devastating. As with other catastrophic accidents, negligence usually plays a role in plane crashes. While people who lost a loved one due to a plane crash will often pursue claims against the pilot flying the plane at the time the mishap occurred, they may seek to impose fault on other parties as well. The liability of the entity that licenses pilots for negligently licensing a flight instructor was the topic of a recent Florida opinion, in a case in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against the federal government. If you lost a loved one in an accident, it is smart to meet with a Florida personal injury attorney to discuss your potential claims.
The Subject Accident
It is reported that the decedent owned a small plane. Pursuant to his insurance policy, he was required to complete ground and flight training twice a year. The insurer approved the use of a company that offered training to people who owned and piloted aircrafts. The decedent hired the instructor, an independent contractor who worked for the company, to train him. On the second day of training, the decedent and instructor left the airport and initially had a normal flight track before they entered into an uncontrolled descent and crashed. Both died in the collision.
Allegedly, the plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, filed a lawsuit naming the federal government as a defendant, asserting that it negligently issued the instructor a pilot certificate. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, and the court granted the motion.
Pursuing Claims Against the Federal Government
A party cannot sue the federal government unless it has unequivocally waived its sovereign immunity. Pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), it waives sovereign immunity for injury, personal injury, or death caused by the wrongful or negligent act or omission of a government employee while acting within the scope of his or her employment, under circumstances where the federal government, if it were a private person, would be liable to the plaintiff.
The FTCA was not, however, intended to create new causes of action or to be used as a means to enforce statutory duties. Instead, it is merely designed to provide redress for ordinary torts recognized by the law of the state where the harm occurred. In the subject case, the United States argued that it could not be held liable for the negligence of the instructor as he was not a federal employee.
The plaintiff conceded as such but argued that the defendant should be held directly liable regardless, under the discretionary function exception of the FTCA. The court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s reasoning, noting this exception was to be narrowly construed. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.
Confer with an Experienced Florida Attorney
When planes crash, the people aboard them often suffer serious and catastrophic injuries, and they should be able to recover damages from anyone responsible for their losses. If you were injured or lost a loved one in an accident, it is advisable to confer with an attorney. The experienced Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A., can analyze the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of your options for pursuing compensation. You can contact us at 800-283-7442 or through the online form to set up a conference.