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Broward County, FL

This was an aviation case in which the plaintiff alleged negligence on the part of the defendant’s air traffic controllers in providing a non-standard landing instruction. The plaintiff claimed that the negligent instruction caused the plane to crash. The defendant maintained that the crash resulted from pilot error and a non-airworthy air craft.

The plaintiff was flying a Piper Pawnee airplane and was pulling advertising banners up and down the beach. He was landing at North Perry Airport in Hollywood Florida after dropping a banner when the crash occurred. Evidence showed that North Perry Airport had two active runways, 36L and 36R. The active runways run north and south. The plaintiff dropped the banner off at the northwest quadrant (west of runway 36L). The plaintiff argued that the normal landing pattern after dropping the banner would be to proceed downwind west of 36L to base; left turn at base and left turn to land at 36L.

However, the defendant’s air traffic controller instructed the plaintiff to make a right turn from the northwest quadrant and to proceed downwind between runways 36L and 36R; to remain between the parallel runways and to then turn left to land at 36R. The plaintiff claimed that landing instructions were non-standard, non-authorized and required the plaintiff to perform aerobatic maneuvers at low altitudes. The landing instructions given caused the Piper Pawnee to stall and crash, according to the plaintiff’s claims.

The plaintiff was 25 years old at the time of the incident. He sustained extensive brain injury with significant cognitive deficits as a result of the crash. He was also diagnosed with multiple fractures and neurologic deficits secondary to the brain injury. The plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries. He is currently an incapacitated ward who lives with his mother. Testimony showed that the plaintiff requires constant supervision; although he can perform daily personal activities such as using the bathroom, showering, dressing, eating and ambulating with a cane.

The defendant maintained that the landing instructions given were appropriate. The defense also argued that the plaintiff did not have to accept the instruction and could have declined it. The defendant contended that the crash resulted from the plaintiff’s negligence and because the aircraft was not airworthy. The defense claimed that the airplane had a faulty air speed indicator and a faulty stall warning system. The plaintiff’s employer was listed by defendant as a Fabre defendant on the verdict form.The jury found the defendant 68% negligent and the plaintiff 32% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in damages, reduced accordingly.

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