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ANN's 'Heroes 'n Heartbreakers' '09: Heartbreaker #4 -- Aero-Legal Defamation

...And Here, Darn it, Are The Heartbreakers

Final Compilations/Analysis by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Corporate Insomniac, Jim Campbell

It is both the most "fun," and most difficult task, facing the ANN staff at the end of every year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those people or entities that did all they could to undermine the many successes the aerospace community has managed to accomplish.
Alas, 2009 saw more than its fair share of downers, aviation-wise. Sure, "stuff" happens... but a few folks, issues, or entities seemed to go out of their way to create problems for the world of aviation.

So... it is ANN's annual obligation to recognize Ten of our Aero-Heartbreakers for 2009... in something of an informal order, starting from the 10th to the 1st.

Let us know what you think of our selections... whom YOU would have liked be included, or omitted, from such a list. In the meantime, we hope those who had something to do with this year's selections think a little more positively about the welfare of this industry, so that future lists become harder and harder to catalog.

Be it ignorance, arrogance or just plain incompetence, these were the folks or topics that made our lot a whole lot more difficult and immeasurably injured the aviation world in the past year.

Shame on those issues, folks, or groups that made our lot so much tougher in 2009...

Aero-Heartbreaker #4: Aero-Legal Defamation

It is a sad fact that the inequities inherent in any complex society are usually too numerous to count, but when you look at what is supposedly a rigidly disciplined microcosm of that society -- like the legal profession, which is supposedly defined by a rigorous code of ethics and truthfulness -- one really wonders what happened to the concept of "Justice."

ANN has been monitoring reports, documents, and websites devoted to the legal community as well as various legal proceedings involving aviation. We grow more and more alarmed by a number of actions and programs that are happening (with increasing frequency), that seem to be beyond the proper restrictions one would expect from an honest, truthful, fair, and just legal system.

We are none too thrilled with the number of so-called legal news services that have popped up, most of them spewing slanted, and in many cases wholly inaccurate news reports devoted to helping connect lawyers with future clients. A few of those devoted to aviation accidents or otherwise covering the subject, would be hilarious on their face, if the damage they were doing were not so ponderous.

We have watched them use ludicrously inaccurate terminology in describing aviation and aeronautical concepts, they are often quick to assign blame (even before the NTSB can get to the site of the accident, and in once case when we knew that the wreckage was STILL burning), and commonly use inflammatory language to hype the tragedies that have befallen some unfortunate aviators and their aircraft. Like many things on the Internet, one must take it with a grain of salt... but the fact that these are "news" stories published by organizations claiming legal expertise (and describing themselves as news services), while supposedly ascribing to legal ethics and virtues, really makes us wonder what the hell has happened to a significant portion of the legal profession.

While slanted aero-legal 'journalism' is alarming in no uncertain terms, there is something far more insidious at work in the ways that the legal system interfaces with aviation. Let's face it, an aviation accident looks like a tempting target for some attorneys looking for a reward, but the way in which the legal profession (literally) attacks aviation with each and every suit is somewhat terrifying. Suits are being waged in which some of the most outrageous statements are presented as if they were fact. Suppositions, theories, and just plain guesswork can be put forth as a cause of action and written as if they were the ordained truth. I am amazed at the language contained in a number of the lawsuits we've seen in recent memory, because if anybody outside of a lawyer looking for a quick buck were to publish this in public, their asses would be hauled into court.

I'm not kidding. Some of the inflammatory rhetoric, wild theories, and postulations presented (as if they were fact and stated as such) are outright sickening. Add to this the fact that the one true authority in any accident investigation, namely the NTSB, is verboten from being utilized as a defense against some of the senseless and outrageous attacks undertaken by a number of aero-ambulance-chasers... and you have a recipe for a continuing disaster. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not going to label every attorney in a negative light, as I have come to know so many fine, responsible, and outstanding people practicing the law... but no one has the right to assert a cause for an accident and to assign blame unless it is a proven documented fact -- as recognized by competent authority. I realize that when you file a lawsuit, you have to present a reason for doing so... but there are far more responsible ways to do so than to make wild statements that have no true supporting evidence (and in so many cases DELIBERATELY CONTRADICT OR IGNORE NTSB determinations!!!!).

Worse than that, many such legal assailants take their fights to the media -- who publish their rampant speculation (and often, falsehoods) as if they were fact.

The statute of repose was supposed to be a long-awaited tool by which aviation could recover from a number of ills it is suffered for a number of decades. However, the costs and damage inherent in the current legal liability situation (when it comes to aircraft accidents and incidents) still are a huge hazard to the health and well-being of aviation. In recent memory, a prominent GA manufacturer, not even the biggest one in the business, told us that their product liability premiums alone were so costly (and had doubled in just a few short years, to boot) that if they were able to do without them, they could immediately go out and hire 250 people. I'm not saying that manufacturers don't have any liability when things go wrong, but I think the concept of liability should be a far tighter and more limited concept. In ANY aircraft that has gone through FAA or other foreign certification, as well as aircraft that are maintained in accordance with FAA regs and standards should have some protection from spurious legal assaults. If the manufacturer does something that is outside of what the aircraft was certified for or deliberately degrades their product through knowledgeable action... well, let the lawyers at them. But an aircraft that is certified, maintained in accordance with said certification (or authorized mods), and operated according to the regs should be free from undue hazard from the legal vultures who will look at any excuse possible to extort big fees at the cost of this embattled industry.

Enough is enough...

FMI: Comments/Criticism???? 


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