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Passengers suing over pilot’s rant during flight to Las Vegas

A group of ten people who were passengers aboard a JetBlue flight when the pilot entered the cabin saying, “we’re all going down,” have filed a lawsuit against the airline. Though none of the plaintiffs suffered significant physical injuries during the incident, which ended after passengers and flight attendants restrained the pilot, in the litigation they are alleging that JetBlue’s negligently allowing the pilot to fly the plane caused them severe emotional trauma.

The plaintiffs were passengers on a JetBlue flight from New York bound for Las Vegas on March 27. At some point in the flight, according to the lawsuit, the pilot ran out of the cockpit and began making bizarre and frightening statements like, “you better start praying right now,” “there’s a bomb on board,” “the plane will never make it to Vegas,” and references to terrorism, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and countries like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

A flight attendant tried to restrain the pilot, but it was a group of passengers who tackled him and held him down as the co-pilot made an emergency landing.

At a press conference on June 13, the passengers described the mental anguish they say they have suffered since the flight. One man said he has not slept well since, and another said he has lost faith in flight crews’ ability to keep him safe.

The pilot’s mental health is expected to be an issue in the litigation. Specifically, the plaintiffs are investigating whether JetBlue was aware of any signs of mental illness prior to assigning him the flight.

Because the scars of mental trauma are not as obvious, it is generally more difficult to prevail in personal injury suits that do not include physical injury. It will be interesting to see if these plaintiffs are successful in their claim.

Source: Washington Post, “JetBlue passengers file suit after being scared by pilot arrested on NY-to-Las Vegas flight,” June 13, 2012

John P. Aldrich
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