When a passenger on a commercial air carrier is injured as a result of an encounter with turbulence, the traditional negligence analysis applies to determine whether the airline is liable for the passenger's damages. As a common carrier, the airline owes its passengers the "highest duty of care." This Comment discusses whether the time has come to change the analysis in airline turbulence injuries to one of res ipsa loquitor--that the injury speaks for itself and would not occur without negligence by another. A review is made of the significant advances in weather forecasting, turbulence prediction, turbulence detection, and airline operating practices, which give an airline a much better ability to protect passengers from injury due to turbulence. Several cases are analyzed hypothetically under a res ipsa loquitor theory of negligence in light of technological advancements. Ultimately, the Comment concludes that even though airlines are in a much better position to protect passengers from turbulence injuries, turbulence is still too uncertain a phenomenon to be able to detect with absolute accuracy. Because of the unpredictable nature of turbulence, it is not possible at this time to say that turbulence injuries are of the kind that only occurs in the existence of negligence by another.
College of Law
Northern Illinois University Law Review
Loeffler, Andrew R.
"It Is Now Safe to Move About the Cabin: Revisiting Air Carrier Liability for Passenger Injuries Due to Turbulence Using a Res Ipsa Loquitur Theory of Negligence,"
Northern Illinois University Law Review: Vol. 30:
2, Article 3.
Andrew R. Loeffler, Comment, It Is Now Safe to Move About the Cabin: Revisiting Air Carrier Liability for Passenger Injuries Due to Turbulence Using a Res Ipsa Loquitur Theory of Negligence, 30 N. Ill. U. L. Rev. 445 (2010).