The recent hoopla surrounding United Airlines is a strong reminder of how an injury, including one stemming from the negligence of others, can occur at any time or place. As a personal injury attorney, my initial reaction to hearing the news that United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger simply to move flight personnel to another airport, was that they may be liable for damages. It came as no shock to me that the United Airlines passenger who was involved in the incident, hired a personal injury lawyer soon after the incident.
It is in fact, within the legal right of United Airlines to bump the passenger from the plane under its Contract of Carriage. According to Timothy Ravich, an aviation law professor at the University of Central Florida and my own understanding of the airline guidelines, the Contract of Carriage includes multiple reasons why United "… has the right to refuse to transport or shall have the right to remove from the aircraft at any point, any passenger."
While it might have been within the legal right of the airline to bump the passenger, the handling of it very well may not be. The injuries and emotional/mental trauma that resulted from the handling of the incident, which reportedly include a concussion and broken nose, will almost certainly be the focus of the lawsuit the passenger and his attorneys plan to bring. In this case, since it was within the legal right for them to remove the passenger from the plane, they would have to prove that the force used to remove the passenger was unlawful or more specifically, “reasonable”. While I cannot comment on whether or not the lawsuit would provide fruitful, as it is up to a jury to decide the “reasonableness” of conduct, the case raises an important point; the dangers associated with airplane travel and airports.
In 2015, a woman brought a lawsuit against O’Hara airport in Chicago after she was left paralyzed when a structure collapsed on her (Chicago, CBS local). Some industry reports even suggest that more than 4000 people are hurt each year simply from falling luggage. Airports are often dangerous, especially because of the added hazards. Not only is there the possibility of being injured by the usual tripping hazards, such as cracks and crevices, but from added perils as well, such as plane stairs mishaps, spills, mistakes by airline hostesses, increased foot traffic etc. Lawsuits have become so common against airports and airlines in recent years, that sites such as http://suetheairlines!.com/ (note the exclamation point, they must be very excited about lawsuits) have begun to pop up all over the web.
With airline and airport injuries becoming more common due to the increase in air travel in the 21st century, it is important to hire an attorney that is experienced in dealing with personal injury cases. If you have been injured due to an injury at an airport or in the air, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. is an experienced NYC personal injury law firm. For a free consultation call 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463). Consultation is always free!