Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman’s head aviation attorney Ronald L.M. Goldman sat down today with June Grasso of Bloomberg Radio’s “Politics, Policy, Power and Law” program to discuss the legal ramifications of the Southwest explosion that left a 43-year-old woman dead.
In the Southwest Flight 1380 interview, Goldman answers the following questions regarding the in-flight engine explosion:
- Who will be held legally responsible for the Southwest Flight 1380 explosion?
- How will the passengers of Southwest 1380 be affected by this tragedy?
- Is Southwest Airlines ignoring the post-traumatic stress disorder of the passengers of Flight 1380?
- Is there legal precedent governing emotional distress injuries or injuries that are not serious stemming from commercial plane disasters?
- Was this tragedy the result of fan blade failure? Or are there other factors to consider?
- Will a similar incident from 2016 involving a Southwest flight—same plane, same engine—play into this?
- With commercial planes insured for anywhere between 85 billion to 2.1 billion dollars, what is the settlement negotiating process like in these types of cases?
- Do commercial aviation disaster lawsuits usually settle or go to trial?
Attorney Ronald Goldman Discusses Southwest 1380 in Interview with Bloomberg
Full Transcript from Ron’s Bloomberg Interview
Who Will Be Held Legally Responsible for the Southwest Flight 1380 Explosion?
Goldman: “The companies responsible will be, first of all, Southwest Airlines. As a common carrier, they are responsible for the safety of the flight and all the equipment used on the flight. Then, obviously, the engine manufacturer will bear responsibility as well. That may well be something that has to be sorted out between Southwest Airlines and the engine manufacturer. So, they both will bear responsibility at least.”
How Will the Passengers of Southwest 1380 be Affected by This Tragedy?
Goldman: “Let it be clear that almost all normally constituted passengers suffered a 22-minute terror flight. They will bear the scars of this very likely for the rest of their lives. So, while we have one immense tragedy in the loss of life, we have others who will have suffered a great deal as well.”
Is Southwest Airlines Ignoring the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder of the Passengers Aboard Flight 1380?
Goldman: “Well I don’t know that yet, but certainly [Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly] did express that they were concerned for the other passengers. I hope that they will take responsibility for all the injuries on this flight. We have often had to battle with the airlines with respect to the injuries that did not manifest themselves in physical injuries, so this is something that we have had to deal with for a very long time.”
Is There Legal Precedent Governing Emotional Distress Injuries or Injuries That Are Not Serious Stemming from Commercial Plane Disasters?
Goldman: “Well, let me first suggest that these other injuries are and can be serious. Post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can affect a person’s life deeply and for the rest of their lives. So we don’t look at these injuries as being minor or insignificant. Secondly, yes there is. As a matter fact, we are involved right now in a case involving JetBlue, where they had an engine fire when they took off from Long Beach Airport a couple years ago, and they had an engine fire, had to return to the airport. And we have many passengers that we represent who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from that event, and nothing blew up. So, yes, there is considerable precedence for this.”
Was This Tragedy the Result of Fan Blade Failure? Or Are There Other Factors to Consider?
Goldman: “…there were really two failures on this flight. There’s not just the fan blade failure, there’s also the failure of the design to contain that event. There’s never supposed to be an escape of material from the airplane’s engine to the fuselage or wings of the airplane. So, this is a double failure that has to be considered, not just the fan blade, but also why was it not contained.”
Will a Similar Incident from 2016 Involving a Southwest Flight—Same Plane, Same Engine—Play into This?
Goldman: “Absolutely it will because that was the warning sign, you know, in aviation terms these are parts that are never supposed to fail. The technical language would suggest that it should only fail one in 1 million times. These are never supposed to fail. When you get a failure in one instance, you know that you have a problem. The question is how do you go about attacking it. The suggestion that there was an AD, which is an airworthiness directive, that was proposed in 2016 but never really implemented, these are weak steps. There should’ve been alarm bells going off throughout the industry, we had a failure that should never have happened, another one could happen. The mere fact that no one died or was seriously injured on the first one, although there was terror, should not have been a matter of complacency, it should have been a matter of intense investigation at that point.
With Commercial Planes Insured for Anywhere Between 1.85 Billion to 2.1 Billion Dollars, What is the Settlement Negotiating Process Like in These Types of Cases?
Goldman: “…there is always a fight and we produce information concerning each individual. There is no lumping of all people together. Every human being is different and suffers differently. So we put together the information that is necessary to demonstrate the magnitude of the loss for each individual. We present it to the appropriate parties and they would, together with their insurance carriers, then give their own evaluation. And then we always, almost always differ, certainly at the early stages, and negotiate toward what we hope will be a solution that satisfies the needs of the passengers. They are usually looking for something that will deliver to them a sense of justice, that they have not been ignored, and that their needs have been met, so that’s what we try to deliver.”
Do Commercial Aviation Disaster Lawsuits Usually Settle or go to Trial?
Goldman: “They rarely land in a trial. They almost always ultimately become settlements.”
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