The East River helicopter crash that caused the death of five sightseers last month is a tragic reminder of the important role wrongful death lawsuits play in our society. The victim’s family is seeking not only compensation, but an end to dangerous open-door sightseeing flights.
The family of Trevor Cadigan, a 26-year-old Dallas native who lived in the Financial District, and drowned when the helicopter crashed and he couldn’t escape, is suing a local company called FlyNYON which chartered the deadly flight, Liberty Helicopters, which owned the chopper, and pilot Richard Vance, who was the lone survivor of the crash. The Cadigan family is alleging these parties failed to provide “proper and safe aircraft and aircraft services,” caused or authorized the operation of a helicopter in a “careless or reckless” manner, and failed to use “ordinary care in piloting” the chopper.
They are also filing specific, individual claims against each of the three defendants.
They claim Vance “failed to properly perform emergency procedures” and was “negligent and careless in failing to take reasonable steps to extricate the passengers” from the helicopter after he “secured his own release.”
They allege FlyNYON breached the duty it had to their son to “exercise the highest degree of care and diligence in the operation, management, maintenance, and service of its helicopter sightseeing tours.”
Finally, they suggest Liberty Helicopters is “vicariously liable for any and all actions of [Vance] as to his negligent and careless piloting and operation of the subject.”
The family is seeking punitive damages which are designed to punish those at fault in addition to compensatory damages, which merely attempt to compensate the family for the loss of their loved one by putting a price on the value of his life.
It is always difficult to convince a court that anything beyond compensatory damages is appropriate, but this case is quite shocking, so punitive damages may be appropriate. Apparently all of the crash victims survived their plunge into the river, but then drowned because they could not unbuckle the seatbelts holding them in. The chopper had been modified for sightseeing purposes, so it had no doors. In order to keep passengers from falling out, the standard seatbelts had been removed and replaced with heavy duty strapping that was difficult to release.
In addition to seeking monetary damages, the family is requesting that the companies stop doing open-door flights so that something like this never happens again.
Our heart goes out to the Cadigan family, and the families of the other victims. Cases like this remind us why we wanted to be lawyers. We want to be there to help families who have suffered unimaginable loses bring those who are responsible to justice.
Posted in: Wrongful Death