Aviation

Legal solutions through a business lens

Our Aviation Practice Team handles a variety of matters from premises liability at various airports and aviation facilities up to and including catastrophic property damage and bodily injury loss arising out of aircraft disasters.

Our Aviation Practice Team handles a variety of matters from premises liability at various airports and aviation facilities up to and including catastrophic property damage and bodily injury loss arising out of aircraft disasters. Our clients over the years have included FBOs, aviation vendors, cargo and baggage handlers, security personnel, wheelchair assistance technicians, airport authorities, aircraft mechanics, pilots and airports. Our practitioners have represented numerous airports in litigation matters including Atlantic City International Airport (NJ), Green Airport (RI), Stewart international Airport (NY), Westchester County Airport (NY), Morristown Airport (NJ), Essex County Airport (NJ), Buffalo Niagara International Airport (NY), Albany International Airport (NY), Tweed New Haven Airport (CT), Republic Airport (NY), Long Island MacArthur Airport (NY), Syracuse Hancock International Airport (NY), Teterboro Airport (NJ), and Newark Liberty International Airport (NJ). We also handle and will prosecute aviation subrogation matters seeking recovery on behalf of aviation underwriters and insurers. Our experienced Practice Team trial litigators are capable of handling matters arising out of any aviation incident whether it be in air or on land.

Successes

Paul Piantino and the Aviation Practice Team secured a big win on summary judgment in New York Supreme Court in Erie County this past November. The case centers around the “duty to warn” and liability with respect to snow removal, a topic FMG has a great deal of expertise in.

Plaintiff was an employee of a private aircraft charter which leased certain sectors from Defendant Airport as part of its business activities. During a snowstorm at the Airport, Plaintiff was allegedly severely injured when she slipped and fell on ice. Plaintiff alleged that she was assisting in the removal of an airplane that had gone off the runway due to snowy and icy conditions.  The aircraft left the runway on to a grassy area and had to be towed out. Plaintiff herself was assisting in towing the aircraft out at the time of her injury.

Plaintiff maintained that Defendant acted negligently in creating and allowing a dangerous condition and failing to display proper warning notices so that the pilot would be aware of the end of the runway in snowy conditions. In addition, Plaintiff brought a New York Labor law claim arguing Defendant had a general obligation to protect the health and safety of all employees operating in the area of the Airport. FMG represented the Airport Authority who operated the Airport.

Defendant was able to demonstrate that it was not required to erect a warning sign and the lack thereof was not a significant factor in causing the injuries that resulted to Plaintiff. Additionally, Defendant relied on the “snow in progress” doctrine. Specifically, while a storm was in progress, Defendant had no obligation to plow, sand  or otherwise clean the area. Defendant did, however, choose to plow the area to make it possible for the grounded plane to be removed. As such, Defendant Airport had a duty to “not exacerbate or create a dangerous condition.” (Wheeler, 31 A.D.3d at 993) In the Court’s view, Defendant did not- they simply plowed the area to assist in the plane’s removal.

Additionally, it was ascertained that Defendant  had neither actual nor constructive notice of the alleged icy conditions as this condition was allegedly present for less than one hour prior to the incident, and further, no complaints were received during that time. Lastly, it was determined that Plaintiff’s labor law claim was meritless because Plaintiff was not considered an employee of Defendant, and as such, Defendant did not have a duty to warn Plaintiff of “potentially dangerous machinery, equipment, and devices” (N.Y. Lab Law §200(2) (McKinney))

This is a notable case under New York law that touches on several vital and recurrent themes in tort law, especially as we head into the winter season. This case provides guidance when defending snow removal and “duty to warn” cases for FMG’s Tort and Catastrophic Loss Practice Section.

If you would like a copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion, please contact Paul Piantino at [email protected] or any attorney at the Newark office.

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