Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Miami Man Dies On American Airlines Flight NYC to Miami: Wrongful Death, Proximate Cause, Airline Common Carrier Injury Law, and Jurisdiction

This morning, while most of Miami is celebrating last night's victory by the Miami Heat over the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals (85 - 75), the family and friends of an elderly man returning home to Miami from New York are grieving his death.

People Who Tried To Help: Flight Attendants, On-Board Doctor
About 20 minutes after the plane departed JFK International, things got worse and the flight attendants were actively trying to resuscitate their passenger.

There was a doctor on board. He tried CPR and he used an AED (automated external defibrulator) on the Miamian. He was not successful in his efforts.

Tragically, the man died while the flight was in midair. American Airlines diverted things, and the plane landed in Virginia so the body could be removed from the flight. News reports do not let us know if the plane was grounded, or if it resumed flight to Miami (and this might be a big deal later).

The Norfolk Airport officials report that the local Virginia Medical Examiner is heading up the investigation into the Miami man's death.

Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Jurisdiction
New York, Florida, Virginia - all these states have laws that impact this case, and many others like it. Federal statutes and regulations may apply, as well.

Miami and most of South Florida is a cosmopolitan type of place: not only do we have tourists, but we've got residents who travel to other places. Vacationers. Snowbirds. Business travelers.
When serious injuries or wrongful deaths happen, then Florida lawyers have to sort through jurisdictional puzzles. What law applies where?

Jurisdiction decides what law will apply. There are state and federal laws that can overlap and conflict.

For example, Florida gives doctors immunity from liability under its Good Samaritan laws, but does Virginia? Does New York?

And, which law applies to a plane passing over other states with a doctor performing CPR mid-flight?

Florida's Wrongful Death statute
defines which loved ones can use its provisions to sue for the wrongful death of someone who has died because of another's actions (or inactions).
Most states have special medical malpractice laws (you can read over Florida's medical malpractice statute here). Which ones would apply to the doctor here?

Federal law as well as all states have strict liability laws and agency regulations that apply to common carriers (air, train, bus). What laws and regulations apply to this American Airlines flight? Was there a violation of their duty to allow this man on board? Did someone neglect to see a very ill and old man in need of medical care before he took his seat?

Airlines are sued for severe personal injury and wrongful death, usually these are the result of plane crashes (see Perkins v Valujet Airlines as an example). Is American Airlines a future defendant?

Our condolences to the loved ones of this Miami gentleman who passed away on his way back home. Deepest sympathies.

And our understanding goes out to the lawyer that may be asked to sort through all these laws and regulations, state and federal, that may apply in this situation. It's a legal spaghetti bowl.

By Bryant Esquenazi on May 19, 2011 1:18 PM

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