On March 17, 2010, while enroute from Orlando, FL to Virginia, an Experimental Lancair IV-P airplane made an emergency landing on a Hilton Head, SC, beach striking and killing a pharmaceutical salesman who was jogging on the shore.
The plane, a single engine kit-built model had lost its propeller, and was descending, gliding quietly. The pilot's vision was impaired by engine oil on the plane's windshield.
The decedent was listening to his iPod while exercising, and likely was not facing in the direction of the landing plane. He was 38 years old, an employee of GlaxoSmithKline, lived near Atlanta, GA, and was the father of two children.
Hypothetically, would the decedent's distributees have a valid cause of action if an action for wrongful death was brought under our New York statute, although it would be more likely be venued in Georgia or South Carolina?
As mentioned in a previous entry, Necessary Elements of Pleading in New York Wrongful Death Action, New York Estates Practice and Trust Law, Section 5-4.1 allows a personal representative to bring an action on behalf of surviving distributees, to recover damages for "a wrongful act, neglect or default" which caused the decedent's death.
As reported, there are at least two surviving distributees, the man's children. As minors, they would suffer "pecuniary damages" by their father's death.
There is no question that the aircraft striking the man caused his death.
Was there "a wrongful act, neglect or default" that caused the plane to land on the beach? It is too soon to tell. The Federal Aviation Agency and the National Transportation Safety Board will launch investigations into the cause of the plane's engine failure.
It may be that everything was properly done to this kit-built plane to make it as airworthy as it could possibly be. If that becomes the case, hopefully the jogging dad had plenty of life insurance.