Fatal Air Accident/Legal Aspects Written by:Georgiades & Mylonas Advocates & Legal Consultants
n this specific situation, Boeing, the manufacturing company, based in the United States of America, may be held strictly liable based on the legislation regarding defective products. The courts in the United States of America acknowledged very early that aircraft manufacturers have the same degree of legal liability for product safety as those which the manufacturers of other usual consumer products have.
The manufacturing company must design the aircraft with due diligence and proceed with detailed checks and tests on flight conditions before putting the aircraft into circulation.
In the Maynard v Stinson Aircraft (1938) JAL 608 case, the manufacturing company was found guilty of negligence due to the fact that the aircraft caught fire and caused bodily injury due to the poor design of the aircraft.
In the case Manos et al v TWA and Boeing (1969) USAvR 209, the dependants of the deceased passengers following an air accident near Rome proceeded with an action against the manufacturing company in the USA due to a manufacturing defect in the aircraft. The court followed Italian law on the issue of negligence due to the fact that the civil offence took place in Italy and awarded damages.
In another case, a Turkish airlines’ aircraft crashed near Paris in 1974 and 346 people lost their lives. After it took off, the aircraft’s door opened, causing explosive decompression which led the floor falling out and the aircraft crashing. According to the investigation, it was obvious that the company McDonnel Corporation was liable due to the design of the aircraft and Turkish airlines were also liable, who had not proceeded with making the necessary changes which the manufacturing company had suggested. The manufacturing company was ordered to pay a large sum of damages in favour of all of the heirs of the persons who had lost their lives due to strict liability (Re Paris Air Crash August 1 1975, Avi, Vol. 14 p. 17, 207).
The issue of strict liability acts in favour of the heirs of persons who lose their lives in aircraft accidents, since no negligence needs to be proven. What needs to be proven is that the aircraft was defective when it left the manufacturer and that the defect was the direct cause of the accident.
The trend which exists today is for those who have the ability to pay and be insured to be strictly liable.
In the event that it is clear that the manufacturing company is partially or wholly liable, the amount of damages which the relatives can get in the United States of America will be much higher due to the trend for much higher amounts of compensation being awarded which is prevalent there.
The civil airline of each state must proceed with carrying out all the necessary checks by using qualified and experienced experts before allowing the aircraft to be registered and then it should check the aircraft at regular intervals and should proceed with sudden and unexpected checks. It should also deal promptly and seriously with any faults mentioned by airlines and ground the aircraft until they are sure that it is safe to fly.
Those responsible in the Control Tower should give proper instructions to the pilots and should guide them or give them permission to make an emergency landing without delay if a problem is detected.
We do not have any final indications as to what exactly happened, nor have any certain conclusions been drawn as to any liability. What we do know is the duties which exist of all those who are competent in relation to the manufacturing, maintenance, ownership, operation and control of the aircraft.
So, if it is obvious from the results of the investigation that all the above or any of them neglected their duties with the result that danger was caused and that consequently, the aircraft crashed causing the death of 121 people, they should be punished and the victims’ relatives should be compensated.
Despite that fact that money cannot obliterate and extinguish the anguish which the relatives have suffered due to the loss of their relatives, I believe that it will help them to gradually adjust so that they can continue to live a smooth and dignified life, to the extent they it is possible for them to do so. The imposition of fines and the payment of compensation by those responsible will help those responsible for flight safety to be more careful in future.