The following is one example of a legal trial in which I participated as an aviation expert witness.
Schuler v. United States, 675 F. Supp. 1088 (W.D. Mich. 1987)
September 21, 1987
Defendants representing the United States of America: Richard Clark, US Department of Justice and Jerome Jones Asst. Chief Counsel, Litigation Division, Federal Aviation Administration.
Plaintiffs alleged the Government and other defendants negligently caused the death of two occupants of a twin-engine aircraft (Cessna 401) that crashed on the approach to the Muskegon County Airport, Michigan airport on June 30, 1981.
The district judge found the United States, acting through its agents, Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, 20% negligent with respect to the crash and that the owner and pilot of the aircraft 80% negligent. The court ordered the defendants to pay $2,500,000 to the surviving family members.
In short, the engine failed on the Cessna. The pilot notified the tower of an emergency landing. At the time, an Air Force C-130 transport was on the runway of intended landing. The tower controllers told the C-130 to clear the runway, which they did.
In the meantime, the pilot of the Cessna lost control of the aircraft. There were no survivors.
Aviation expert witness Richard Levy, previously qualified on the C-130, helped arrange for a live test to determine how much time a C-130 needed to exit the runway. It was determined that the C-130 on the day of the accident would have been able to clear the runway in use by the time the Cessna would have crossed the runway threshold. It was determined that this requirement would have been satisfied prior to the crash of the Cessna.
On February 23, 1989, the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, reversed the district court’s prior declaration and had it dismiss the complaint against the United States.