An aviation lawsuit was tried before a federal judge in Virginia recently and resulted in a $5.4m verdict against the United States federal government. The court found that an air traffic controller’s negligence caused a collision between three pilots. All three were experienced pilots.

This aviation lawsuit occurred on May 28, 2012 when two single-engine planes collided midair above Sumerduck, Virginia. Both pilots were experienced pilots. Before the planes collided, there was an alarm that went off inside the local air traffic control center for 37 seconds. This alarm should have signaled that these planes were about to collide. But even with the alarm, the air traffic controllers did not warn either planes of the impending collision.

This aviation lawsuit was initiated by the widow of Paul Gardella, one of the pilots that died in this tragic, yet preventable, accident. She sued the Federal Aviation Administration or the FAA via a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The trial court in this aviation lawsuit found that air traffic controllers have a duty to warn pilots of impending collisions so that they can take action to prevent them.

This particular aviation lawsuit was a wrongful death case. In an FTCA case, your damages are limited by the state law. So what damages you can get, will depend on state law. In this case, wrongful death damages included:

  • The sorrow, mental anguish, and solace which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and kindly offices and advice of the victim.
  • Compensation for the loss of income and loss of services, protection, care, and assistance provided by the victim.
  • Expenses for hospital bills and other medial treatment before the victim’s death.
  • Funeral expenses.

In Federal Tort Claims Act cases, you cannot get punitive damages by law, so the victim’s family was not able to seek punitive damages.

Bringing an Aviation Lawsuit

Whitehurst Harkness has two licensed pilots who are also lawyers—Bill Whitehurst and Tom Harkness. The firm knows how to handle a complex aviation lawsuits. If you have been injured as a result of an aviation accident, contact us.