“Lawsuit planned by family of teen who fell from airplane”

by Walter Olson on January 20, 2011

Hoping to ride for free, 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale stowed away in the landing gear of a US Airways flight but fell to his death in the Boston area. Now his family is suing, represented by Florida attorney Christopher Chestnut, who argues that the lad “should never have successfully gained access to that airplane. Had airport security been up to par, he would be alive and well with his family today.” [Boston Globe and more via TortsProf, BoingBoing]

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PointOfLaw Forum
01.20.11 at 8:03 am


1 Bob Lipton 01.20.11 at 8:00 am

I hope the airline countersues for insufficient supervision of their son, which had the result that the airline was put to enormous expense. Should be worth a few million.


2 Harry Lime 01.20.11 at 10:51 am

It’s lawsuits like these that make me think the old system of pure contributory negligence is the way to go. What the hell do you think is going to happen when you hide in the wheel well of a commercial aircraft? Obviously the wheels are going to have to come back down. I wonder if this kid had just watched the movie Commando on TV, as I’m pretty sure Arnold does the same think in one scene. I know North Carolina has pure contributory negligence for product liability suits. See N.C.G.S. § 99B-4(3). I wonder if they have the same for failure to secure cases (I’m assuming this would just be a negligence claim).

3 Robert 01.20.11 at 3:53 pm

@Bob Lipton: InCalifornia, parental liability is limited to $25,000 (I found a chart here http://www.mwl-law.com/CM/Resources/PARENTAL%20RESPONSIBILITY%20CHART%20(00033309).pdf ) Laws restricting parental liability may make it impossible for the airline to counter sue.

4 Bob Lipton 01.20.11 at 5:25 pm

Robert, any figures on North Carolina, Massachussetts and Federal regulations? Because given the actions, those are the only jurisdictions I see in the matter.


5 Nevins 01.21.11 at 9:33 am

‘Had airport security been up to par, he would be alive and well with his family today.’
Given his stunning lack of judgment, it is equally probable that he would have found another way to remove himself from the gene pool.

6 Bob Neal 01.22.11 at 7:42 am

Problem for these potential plaintiffs is that Contributory Negligence remains the law in NC.

7 Bill Poser 01.23.11 at 2:32 pm

Is trespass not a tort in NC? The airline probably has a countersuit.

8 Melvin H. 01.23.11 at 2:42 pm

How about criminal charges against the parents for child neglect?

9 No Name Guy 01.24.11 at 12:44 pm

Snark on.
In reality, the parents should be suing the aircraft maker. After all, it’s foreseeable that someone might attempt to stow away in the wheel well. In fact, it’s happened numerous times (usually resulting in death by crushing, freezing or hypoxia). That the manufacturer didn’t take steps to provide a system to warn the pilots of a stowaway indicates gross neglect. After all, why can’t they install a sensor to detect a large, organic foreign object in the wheel well? It would only cost a dollar per plane. And further more, how come there aren’t heaters, oxygen masks, handles to hold on to and sufficient space in the wheel well to allow a stow away to safely reside there if the sensor fails. Just think of the children!!!!
Snark off.

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