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AA passengers ready to sue

Published:Monday | January 18, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

United States-based aviation attorney Mike Slack said enough facts have been established to hold American Airlines (AA) responsible for the runway mishap involving Flight 331 in Kingston last month.

Slack, who visited Jamaica recently, is teaming up with the Jamaican law firm, Wilson Franklin and Barnes, to sue the airline on behalf of more than a dozen passengers.

The attorneys revealed that they were also checking to make sure their clients did not sign away their right to sue AA when they accepted a US$5,000 (J$450,000) offer to passengers who lost their luggage in the accident.

Judgement error

Speaking to The Gleaner, Slack said based on the facts already gathered by local investigators, AA's responsibility lies "in the cockpit and the boardroom".

"What those pilots did was a judgement error ... and in the boardroom, the question is why does American Airlines continue to have these systemic problems with its (flight) crew engaging in risky behaviour at the expense of its passengers?" he questioned.

Flight 331 overshot the runway at the Norman Manley International Airport on December 22, and ran across the Port Royal main road before stopping just 40 metres from the sea.

Ninety-two of the 148 passengers on-board suffered minor injuries.

Slack acknowledged that the suit could be filed in a Jamaican court, but said that for several reasons "it would be safe to assume that it will be filed somewhere in the US".

Taken overseas

The possibility of a huge financial award, the fact that AA is based in the US and quicker access to information are some of the reasons the case could be taken overseas.

Slack, who left the island yesterday, said on his return to the US, he would write to American Airlines to officially inform it of its clients' intent to file suit.