4 lawsuits follow fatal California plane crash

Posted on in Wrongful Death

When someone dies as a result of another person's negligence, a lawsuit often follows. Family members of the victims understandably want some form of justice for the person who caused their death. If more than one person was killed, the person accused of negligence can face multiple wrongful death lawsuits. But what happens when that person was among those who died?

A plane crash blamed on pilot error has resulted in no less than four lawsuits filed against the pilot's estate. Although the plane showed no signs of mechanical problems before it took off last year from the Palo Alto airport, the pilot was warned twice by the air traffic controller that the runway wasn't visible, "so it's at your own risk." The pilot responded with an "OK" and proceeded to take off. The plane then hit an electrical tower and power lines and crashed in the front yard of a home in a residential neighborhood. The pilot died along with his two passengers, who were his work colleagues.

The families of the two passengers filed lawsuits, as did two insurance companies. A fourth lawsuit was filed by the family whose yard the plane crashed into. The couple who own the house said they were traumatized, having to climb over a tall back fence with their two small grandchildren to escape the danger of the wreckage. They say they've sought medical and psychological treatment as a result.

The lawsuits are being heard by one judge, who has recommended that they be consolidated. Because the pilot died in the crash, his estate may have to pay for damages to four different parties. The value of that estate is unknown, and it remains to be seen just how much they will gain if a settlement is reached. While it won't replace the families' loved ones or take away the trauma they felt, some amount of compensation should ease their pain and sense of loss.

Source:, "Final report from federal probe into fatal East Palo Alto plane crash due today," Bonnie Esslinger, Nov. 17, 2011

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