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Philadelphia County, PA

The plaintiff, US Airways, Inc., brought this suit against the defendant, FedEx Corporation, alleging that the defendant negligently failed to secure one of its large transport dollies at the Philadelphia Airport. As a result, the plaintiff alleged that the dolly was blown across the runway in a heavy wind, struck the back of one of its jets and caused damages. The defendant maintained that the dolly in question was properly secured, but was caused to move by a "Vis Major", or force of nature which was beyond the defendant’s control. The defendant also contended that the plane was repaired by the plaintiff’s employees with parts in stock and that, accordingly, the plaintiff did not sustain recoverable damages as a result of the incident. The defendant further disputed the plaintiff’s claimed business losses.

Evidence showed that in the late afternoon of June 9, ________, there was a thunderstorm in the area of the Philadelphia National Airport. The winds, measured by the airport’s weather instrumentation, were recorded at speeds of 47 mph. The defendant had left a large wheeled metal dolly, with a container unit on top, positioned on its ramp. The dolly was used for moving packages inside an aircraft. The dolly was blown from the defendant’s ramp on the western side of the airport, across a taxiway and into the back of a jet operated by America West. US Airways merged with America West in ________ and the two airlines were in the process of combining operations when this accident occurred. US Airways was the real party in interest when the lawsuit was initiated.

The plaintiff introduced photographs, taken after the accident, depicting the brake handle of the defendant’s dolly in a position indicating that the brake was released. One of the plaintiff’s former employees testified that the photographs were an accurate depiction of what he saw when he arrived at the scene. However, on cross examination, this employee admitted that he did not know who took the pictures or in what sequence (time) the photos were taken.

The plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert opined that, given the wind speed and direction, the defendant’s dolly could not have been blown into the plaintiff’s airplane unless the brake was off. The plaintiff contended that the defendant failed to adequately secure the dolly by placing chocks under its wheels and setting the hand brake.

The plaintiff’s witnesses testified that the rear fuselage of the jet, a ________-seat commercial Airbus ________, was badly damaged by the collision from the defendant’s dolly. The plaintiff sought damages for the cost of repairs plus loss of the airplane for approximately a week. The plaintiff alleged that it was forced to cancel approximately 14 flights due to loss of use of the plane.

The plaintiff’s aircraft repair mechanic testified that the plaintiff’s plane had been damaged in five areas and the skin of the aircraft had been punctured in two areas. The plaintiff sought $________ in repair costs, $________ for cancelled flights and an additional $________ representing the value to US Airways of having a certain number of spare (lesser utilized) aircraft in its fleet to avoid further cancellations.

The defendant, whom operates primarily at night, claimed that the dolly at issue had been properly chocked and braked on the morning preceding the storm. The defense introduced an Air Operations Division checklist which was completed the morning of the storm, which stated "ALL DOLLIES BRAKED AND CHOCKED." The defendant argued that the storm at issue created a locally severe wind condition known as a "microburst," which was heaviest in the area of the defendant’s ramp. The defendant’s meteorologist opined that a more intense event occurred in the location where the dolly was parked and that the wind speeds there were in excess of the 45 to 50 mph which had been measured by the wind device located some two miles away. The defendant argued that crew stairs and other pieces of equipment had also been blown various distances by the wind that afternoon.

The defendant’s CPA testified that the plaintiff failed to properly document the repairs to the airplane. The defense contended that the repairs were made by mechanics on staff by the plaintiff with parts already in stock and that the plaintiff did not lose money from flight cancellations as alleged. The defendant contended that the plaintiff did not incur any damages stemming from the collision.

The jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $________. The defendant’s post-trial motions are pending.

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