In April 1990, during an excursion flight over the Grand Canyon, a small plane’s engine failed, injuring six passengers and the pilot.
We represented passengers who sued Grand Canyon Airlines and others responsible for the manufacture, maintenance and operation of the Cessna T207. A jury awarded the plaintiffs $9.2 million for their severe injuries sustained when the plane endured sudden engine failure and crashed in the bottom of a 200-foot ravine in the Grand Canyon.
Plaintiffs succeeded under the legal doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur, or “the thing speaks for itself”.
Grand Canyon Airlines argued that the pilot was at fault, and that the ‘captain of the ship’ doctrine should apply – meaning that the pilot has ultimate control over the aircraft. Grand Canyon argued the Cessna T207’s engine and component parts could not be under their exclusive control. Following Plaintiffs’ substantial verdict, Grand Canyon Airlines appealed the verdict on the basis that the trial cort erred on the Res Ipsa Loquitur instruction and several other points. Yet the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (66 F3d 334) sided with the plaintiffs and upheld the verdict, a significant ruling in support of the jury instruction. The appeals court found the incident was one that ordinarily would not occur absent negligence, that the aircraft was under the defendant’s control and they were responsible for detecting and correcting any problems with the engine because they were responsible for its maintenance.
JURY AWARD: $9.2 million