Aviation Accidents - Who’s Responsible for Injuries “In” the Airport?

While it’s generally clear that an airline would be responsible for accidents that occur on its own planes, responsibility for injuries in the airport terminal itself, on the tarmac or in the airport lunge are not.

Does premises liability arise in aviation cases?

We asked Larry Goldhirsch, a New York plaintiffs’ attorney with 38 years of experience whose practice represents aviation accident victims, this question in a recent interview. Here’s what he told us:

Yes, it does. It’s fairly tricky because when people trip over a door saddle or slip on a floor in an airport lounge, they might think that that is the responsibility of the airline. Maybe it is, but most times it is not. It’s generally the responsibility of whatever public authority runs the airport.

For example, in New York City, if you trip and fall at JFK Airport, even if it’s in Delta’s lounge, it may not be a case against Delta. If you sue Delta, you may find out, after the statute of limitations passes, that you sued the wrong person or the wrong entity. In New York City, it’s the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that runs the airports and has the duty of maintaining the airport facilities.

When the airline is responsible

Goldhirsch says that the airline itself may be responsible in some situations. He provided an example from his practice:

I represent a couple who flew from New York and were going to Montpellier, France. They flew from New York, JFK, to Paris and had to change planes. Air France was transporting them on one of those busses across the tarmac, taking them from one lounge where they disembarked from the New York to Paris flight and were taking them to another plane on which they were going to embark from Paris to Montpellier.

Unfortunately for them, there was a collision on the tarmac with an Air France truck. Even though Air France said they weren’t running the truck and the person who was driving the bus wasn’t their employee, nevertheless, Air France will probably be held responsible because it was an international flight and those people were in the control of Air France at the time of the accident.

Differences in domestic and international travel

Goldhirsch says that the responsibility can differ depending upon whether the travel was domestic or international. He explained, “If the example above happened in the United States on a domestic flight where there was a changeover – that might not be the case at all. There might be a case against the airport authority, but probably not against the airline. It would depend on each different state and each different airport. So as you can see, it can get very complicated as to who to sue and where to bring that suit.”

If you’ve been injured in an aviation accident, contact an experienced lawyer whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.