Michael Slack

Michael Slack, founding and managing partner, focuses on the most demanding areas of civil litigation, including aviation law and products liability cases against major corporations. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1995 and Super Lawyers since 2003. In 2013, he was named one of Central Texas’ Top 50 Lawyers by Super Lawyers. Mr. Slack is a Civil Trial Advocate as certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Personal Injury Trial Law.

Practice Areas
Education
  • B.S. and M.S., Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University
  • J.D., The University of Texas at Austin
Professional Background

Prior to his legal career, Mr. Slack was a senior aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in Houston, working from 1974 to 1980 on the Apollo-Soyuz and Space Shuttle programs. He received special commendations from NASA for his contributions. He remains licensed as a professional engineer and as a pilot.

Mr. Slack’s aviation law experience includes more than 28 years of complex litigation arising from air crashes. He also has successfully obtained recoveries in numerous products liability cases against aircraft and component manufacturers.

Notable Cases

Reno Air Race Disaster, September 2011
On September 16, 2011, a highly modified P-51D Mustang crashed near the spectator area at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, killing 11 people and injuring more than 100 other spectators. The firm represented multiple spectators and was the lead counsel for all of the spectator families in negotiating and implementing the Reno Air Disaster Compensation Fund. Funds were distributed to claimants in January 2013, less than 8 months after the initial meeting with Ken Feinberg, Administrator of the Fund.

Hagerman, et al. v. Hawker Beechcraft Corp., et al.
Larry Hagerman, an airplane mechanic, was killed when he was struck in the head by the door of a pressurized airplane on the ground. In June 2011, the jury awarded the largest compensatory verdict in a wrongful death case in Bell County, Texas, history to the Hagerman family.

American Airlines Flight 331
During the December 22, 2009, landing attempt in Kingston, Jamaica, American Airlines Flight 331 crashed at Norman Manley International Airport, injuring most of the passengers. The firm represented multiple injured passengers. All cases resolved for confidential amounts.

Continental Flight 1404
Continental Flight 1404 took off from the Denver International Airport on December 20, 2008, after being cleared for takeoff by air traffic control. The aircraft veered off the runway, skidded across the taxiway and crashed in a ravine. The firm represented multiple passengers whose cases settled for confidential amounts.

American Connection Flight 5966
American Connection Flight 5966 was flying from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, to Kirksville Regional Airport in Missouri on October 19, 2004, when the aircraft crashed on approach. The firm represented one of two surviving passengers and the case settled for a confidential amount.

American Airlines Flight 587
American Airlines Flight 587 took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on November 21, 2001. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft lost its vertical stabilizer and crashed moments later into Belle Harbor, a residential area of New York City. The plane exploded on impact, killing all 251 passengers. AA Flight 587 was the second deadliest aviation accident to occur on U.S. soil. The firm represented the families of multiple passengers and served on the plaintiff’s steering committee in the Multi-District Litigation.  The firm’s cases settled for confidential amounts.

Talbott v. Medical Air Transport, Inc., and Roswell Hospital Corporation
Damon Talbott, a New Mexico State Trooper, was killed in October 2001 when the pilot lost control of the Medical Air Transport, Inc. helicopter. The case was tried twice, and both juries returned record verdicts for the plaintiffs. This case is significant as the first reported precedent nationally where a hospital was held liable for negligently selecting an incompetent air ambulance contractor. Talbott v. Roswell Hospital, 144 N.M. 753, 192 P.3d 267.

American Airlines Flight 1420 (Manus v. American Airlines)
On June 1, 1999, American Airlines Flight 1420 (a McDonnell Douglas MD-82) overran the runway at Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas when the pilots attempted to land in a thunderstorm. The crash killed eleven passengers. The firm served on the plaintiff’s steering committee in the Multi-District Litigation and represented families of two deceased passengers and multiple injured passengers. One of the firm’s cases (Manus v. American Airlines) was tried to a jury verdict.  The Manus verdict was the only verdict in the litigation to be affirmed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Manus v. American Airlines, Inc., 314 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 2003).  The firm’s other cases settled for confidential amounts.

Hyatt v. ValuJet Flight 592
O
n May 11, 1996, Walter Hyatt, American singer and songwriter, mentor to Lyle Lovett, was killed when ValuJet 592 caught fire and crashed into the everglades in Miami-Dade County.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the fire began in the cargo compartment below the passenger cabin. The firm represented the Hyatt family and the case settled for a confidential amount.

Vaughan v. Omniflight Helicopters
Stevie Ray Vaughan, famed guitarist, was killed on August 27, 1990 when the helicopter he was in, a Bell 206B, crashed into the side of a hill at the Alpine Valley Resort in East Troy, Wisconsin.  The firm represented the Vaughan family and the case settled for a confidential amount.

Note: These and many other aviation cases are profiled on the Slack & Davis aviation website. 

Recent Publications and Speaking Engagements

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

  •  “It’s Complicated: Tips on Making Complex Cases Simple” (State Bar of Texas Annual Convention – Litigation Section CLE; June 26, 2014; Austin, Texas)
  • “Translating Technical Concepts for Today’s Jury” (American Association for Justice Annual Convention; July 28, 2014: Baltimore, Maryland)
  • “Art of Simplicity: Direct and Cross Examination” (State Bar of Texas Advanced Personal Injury Law Course 2014; multiple dates and locations)


Past Speaking Engagements

  • “The Legislature’s Impact on the Trial Bar” (Dallas Trial Lawyers Association; March 2014)
  • “The Art of Simplicity: Litigating Complex Cases” (American Association for Justice Winter Convention; February 2014)
  • “Presenting Complex Facts to a Jury” (State Bar of Texas Advanced Trial Strategies; February 2014)
  • “Aviation Safety in the New Millennium” (Austin Metropolitan Breakfast Club; February 2014)
  • “The Art of Simplicity: Litigating Complex Cases” (State Bar of Texas Advanced Civil Trial Course 2013 and Embry Riddle Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium 2014)
  • “Emerging Technologies and Challenges in Aviation Safety” (American Bar Association CLE; October 2013)
  • “Off the Record: Life as an Engineer, Pilot and Trial Lawyer” (Order of Daedalians; April 2013)
  • “Transactions Gone Bad: Litigation between Buyers and Sellers of Aircraft” (National Business Aviation Association, November 2012. Note: Paper written by Mark Pierce)
  • “Legends of the Fall” (Texas Trial Lawyers Association; September 2012)
  • “Plaintiff and Damages Expert – The Complex Path to a Fair and Reasonable Damages Award” (National Institute on Aviation Litigation conference, American Bar Association; June 2012)
Professional and Community Activities
  • American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
  • Texas Trial Lawyers Association, past president and current member of Board of Directors
  • American Association for Justice, past chair of the Aviation Law Section and current member of Board of Governors
  • Lawyer Pilots Bar Association
  • American Astronautical Society
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • International Society of Air Safety Investigators
  • Judicial Compensation Commission, State of Texas (2008-2011)
  • Texas Pattern Jury Committee Volume I, Vice Chair (2008-present)
  • Austin Symphony, Board Member
  • Department of Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University, Advisory Council
  • AIAA National Technical Committee, Legal Aspects of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Recognition
  • Who’s Who Legal Aviation, 2014
  • Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers (a 10-year honoree)
  • Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers “Top 100 Lawyers in Texas” (2012)
  • Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers “Top 50 Lawyers in Central and West Texas” (2012-2013)
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Associate Fellow (2002)
  • National Board of Trial Advocacy, “Civil Trial Advocate”
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV®-rated
  • Best Lawyers in America (past 13 years)
  • Board Certified, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Personal Injury Trial Law
  • Board Certified, National Board of Trial Advocacy, Civil Trial Law
  • Registered Professional Engineer (Aerospace), Texas
  • Licensed Pilot, Airplane Single Engine Land, Instrument Rating
  • Licensed Amateur Radio Operator W5QKM
  • Bendix National Design Team Award, Recipient (Unmanned Venutian Lander, 1973)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Mission STS-2 (1981)
  • 73rd Texas Legislature, Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock (Contributions to Products Liability Bill)
In The News

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