Downing & Peck, P.C. has long been known as one of the preeminent aviation litigation firms in New York. The firm has represented TWA, United Airlines, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue Airlines and others since 1969.

Some of our notable victories were in such cases as Sladick v. Hudson General v. TransWorld Airlines, Inc[*26] which involved a TWA employee injured when his electric-powered tractor was struck by a Hudson General vehicle at John F. Kennedy Airport. Mr. Sladick lost a leg in the accident. The claim against our client, TWA, was of improper training and supervision and negligent maintenance of the electric tractor. The jury awarded damages in the sum of $22 million against the co-defendant. Our client was exonerated of any negligence and we were able to recover attorneys fees for our client, TWA.

In the In Re: September 11th Litigation, Marguerite Peck won a dismissal of all claims and cross-claims against Northwest Airlines, Inc. (U.S. District Ct., SDNY, J. Hellerstein, 2008).

In the case of Weinstein v. TWA[*27] the plaintiff claimed cervical disc herniations as a result of 35-pound VCR falling out of an overhead bin in an aircraft. John M. Downing Jr. tried the case before a jury and obtained a dismissal of the action, persuading the court that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the airline as a matter of law since a co-passenger dislodged the item.

Similarly, in a claim against an airline, Stagl v. Delta Airlines[*28] the trial court dismissed an action by a passenger who claimed that an airport crowd was unruly, causing plaintiff to fall to the ground when she was retrieving her bag from a baggage carousel. The court held that Delta breached no duty to plaintiff.

We have extensive expierence in cases involving the Federal Preemption Doctrine, i.e. whether the Montreal Convention for airline travel preempts state negligence law. We utilized the Federal Preemption defense successfully in Lendley v. TransWorld Airlines[*29] and Frankel v. TransWorld Airlines[*30] among many other cases.

We argued in New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, and won the leading case on an airline's duty to a handicapped or disabled passenger in the case of Adamsons v. American Airlines, Inc.[*31] which held that the Federal Aviation Act permits an airline discretion in deciding whether to decline to board a disabled passenger based upon safety considerations.

Similarly, we obtained dismissal of the plaintiff's claim in Moxson v. United Airlines[*32] in which the plaintiff threatened a fellow passenger and was ejected from the aircraft and thereafter sued the airline for his removal and arrest. We persuaded the court that plaintiff was a security threat and was properly removed from the aircraft.

We have won many cases arising from alleged negligent operation and maintenance of the loading and unloading areas of airports and had a severe leg injury case dismissed in the case of Forrester v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey[*33] and also won summary judgment in the case of Ahmed v. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey[*34] in which the plaintiff claimed that a crack in the sidewalk in the loading area caused her to fall. We established that there was no prior notice of any defect and had the case dismissed.

Similarly, in Stuhlmuller v. Delta Airlines[*35/a>] John Downing, Jr. tried the case in the United States District Court, S.D.N.Y., and proved that the airline committed no negligence, even though the plaintiff established that she slipped on water leaking from the roof of a jet bridge.

We have won many cases involving intentional torts upon aircraft. In Li v. United Airlines[*36] we persuaded the court that the airline was not liable for a passenger's urination on another passenger. We established that the conduct was solely the result of the offending passenger's voluntary intoxication, rather than any negligent service of alcohol to him. We also successfully applied the Warsaw Convention in this matter and convinced the court that the incident was not an “accident in the course of embarking or disembarking” and that the conduct did not constitute an “accident” under the Warsaw Convention.

In Kemelman v. Delta Airlines[*37] we successfully argued that the airline carrier could not be held liable for a passenger's fatal heart attack which occurred during a flight and persuaded the court that the incident was not an “accident” as defined by the Warsaw Convention. The court held that any failure to provide adequate medical care did not constitute an “accident” as contemplated by Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. Moreover, the court held that the plaintiff's claim of alleged malfunctioning of a public announcement and/or oxygen canister did not constitute an “accident” within the Warsaw Convention's definition of same.

In Hartford Insurance v. Total Aviation[*38] Marguerite Peck won a jury defense verdict and prevailed in the First Department which held that an adverse aircraft maintenance company was liable for damages to our client's tow tractor. Ms. Peck demonstrated that the maintenance company failed to equip the tow tractor with snow chains and failed to instruct the employee in operation of the vehicle in dark, snowy conditions. Ms. Peck won said decision even though the jury found that the tow driver himself was not negligent.

[*26] 226 A.D.2d 263, 641 NYS2d 270 (1st Dept. 1996).
[*27] Supreme Ct., Nassau County, February 3, 1994, Justice John Burke.
[*28] U.S. District Ct., EDNY, June 24, 1996, Judge Reale.
[*29] 807 F.2d 26 (2nd Cir. 1986).
[*30] New York Law Journal, January 7, 1982.
[*31] 458 N.Y. 2d 42, 444 N.E.2d 21, 457 NYS2d 771 (1982).
[*32] Supreme Ct., Queens County, March 27, 2007, Justice Luther Dye.
[*33] 527 NYS2d 224, 139 A.D. 2d 449 (1st Dept. 1988).
[*34] Supreme Ct., Queens County, January 23, 2000, Justice Dorsa.
[*35] U.S. District Ct., SDNY, August 9, 1995, Judge John Martin.
[*36] 780 F. Supp 117, (U.S. District Ct., EDNY 1992), Judge Bartels.
[*37] Supreme Ct., Nassau County, September 6, 2000, Justice Bucaria.
[*38] 679 NYS2d 376 (1st Dept. 1998).

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E-mail: attorneys@downingpeck.com