Busses, subways, trains and airplanes are convenient forms of mass transit that can get commuters and travelers to their destinations more quickly and easily than other forms of transportation. These common carriers must exercise an increased standard of care in their actions to ensure the safety of their passengers where possible.
A recent mass transit accident in New York occurred when a Southwest Airlines plane skidded off of a runway at La Guardia Airport while landing. According to witnesses, the plane’s landing gear had successfully deployed prior to touching the ground, but the nose gear didn’t hold up upon landing. The plane skidded off of the runway on its nose, coming to rest in a patch of grass. There were 150 passengers and crewmembers on the flight, twelve of which were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment of various injuries. There were no issues with the flight until landing, but an investigation is currently ongoing.
Commercial airlines, such as Southwest Airlines, are held to be common carriers. Common carriers are held to heightened safety standards as they assume responsibility for the safety of all passengers that purchase a ticket. Because of this, airlines may be subject to significant liability when accidents involving their planes occur. Injured passengers can pursue damages for medical expenses and emotional distress, among others, and may also pursue punitive damages in some cases. Potential defendants that may be held liable in such a case include airlines, pilots, airplane manufacturers and the government. Manufacturers may be liable under product liability laws if the plane of a part of the plane proves to be defective. The other possible defendants may be liable under the theory of negligence if they fail to protect passengers from reasonably foreseeable harm.
In this case, the flight itself was conducted without any problems. Additionally, the landing gear deployed as expected. However, the landing gear on the nose of the plane collapsed when the plane touched the ground, causing it to skid off the runway and injure numerous passengers. Based on this malfunction of the landing gear, the manufacturer of the gear may face liability for any damages as long as the pilot did not improperly land the plane.