Pre-Impact Terror in Plane Crash Litigation

A federal judge in Chicago has agreed to allow a jury to consider whether airplane crash victims experience preimpact terror before their deaths.

Faced with no Illinois law directly on point, the federal court determined that the reasoning in  Haley v.
Pan American World Airways, Inc., 746 F.2d 311, 314-15 (5th Cir. 1984), was persuasive.  The Haley could found the courts of Louisiana would permit recovery for emotional distress “during a negligently produced ordeal”

From the opinion:

A jury could reasonably infer from the evidence that will be presented at trial that the passengers on ET 302 perceived that they were going to crash, horrifically, to their certain death. Boeing has not demonstrated that Illinois authority bars plaintiffs from recovering for the preimpact emotional distress they suffered as a result, and the Court concludes that the Illinois Supreme Court likely would permit recovery of such damages.

The Court also concluded that there was sufficient evidence of emotional distress to create a jury question given the anticipated testimony about the movements of the plane before the crash.

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