The December 22, 2009 crash of American Airlines Flight 331 at Kingston, Jamaica's Norman Manley International Airport ended a year wrought with many highly publicized - and several devastatingly tragic - aviation disasters. Flight 331, which originated in Miami, Florida, crash landed in bad weather and skidded off the runway, crossed a road and came to rest on a beach only feet away from the Caribbean Sea. The impacts cracked apart the airplane's fuselage and destroyed the landing gear while heavy rain battered the wreckage and passengers. All 154 people on board survived the crash, but more than half of them suffered injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones.
Since American Airlines Flight 331 was an international flight between Miami and Jamaica, any litigation regarding injuries sustained in the crash would be governed by an international treaty known as the Montreal Convention. Under the Montreal Convention, American Airlines would be obligated to compensate passengers for their injuries as long as the crash was caused by an "accident," which the treaty defines to include any unexpected event. As Flight 331 improperly overshot its landing point and skidded off the runway, there is little question that this event qualifies as an "accident" for purposes of the Montreal Convention.
If the passengers choose to pursue a claim against the airline, they would not need to prove American Airlines acted wrongfully to receive compensation for their injuries. However, in situations where damage amounts would exceed approximately $155,000, American Airlines could avoid liability only if it were able to prove that it was not in any way "negligent or at fault." This is a very high burden for an airline to meet.
The aviation attorneys at Rapoport Law Offices, P.C., have successfully litigated many cases governed by international law. They are also well-versed in the topic of the Montreal Convention. David Rapoport co-authored the article "A 73-Year Odyssey: The Time Has Come For A New International Air Liability System", which was published in Issues in Aviation Law and Policy. The article takes an in depth look at the Montreal Convention and the history behind it.
The passengers on board American Airlines Flight 331 should be aware that they have legal rights in relation to this incident. The aviation negligence lawyers at Rapoport Law Offices, P.C., recently represented and successfully resolved legal claims on behalf of eleven passengers on Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 which ran off of the runway at Chicago's Midway Airport during a snowstorm. After landing, that airplane skidded off the runway, crashing through fences and colliding with vehicles before coming to a stop, injuring many of the passengers on board.