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
Attorneys representing one of the defendants, the United States of America: Richard Clark, US Department of Justice, and Jerome Jones, Assistant. 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 (Michigan) Airport on June 30, 1981.
The district judge found the United States, acting through its agents, Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, 20% at fault and the owner and pilot of the Cessna 80% at fault with respect to the crash. The court ordered the defendants to pay $2,500,000 to the surviving family members.
In short, the Cessna’s engine failed. The pilot notified the tower of an emergency landing. At the time, an Air Force C-130 transport was on the runway on which the Cessna needed to land. The tower controllers told the C-130 to clear the runway, which it did.
In the meantime, the pilot of the Cessna lost control of the aircraft. There were no survivors.
I 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 would have been able to clear the runway by the time the Cessna would have crossed the runway threshold if it had not crashed.
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.