Mike Slack

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Mike Slack focuses on the most challenging and demanding areas of civil litigation, including aviation law and products liability cases against major corporations. A licensed pilot and former NASA aerospace engineer, Mike combines his technical knowledge and skills with his extensive litigation and trial experience for the benefit of his clients.

Practice Areas

Airplane & Helicopter Crashes Catastrophic Personal Injury & Death Truck & Car Accidents

Mike Slack

Managing Partner & Co-Founder

Mike Slack focuses on the most challenging and demanding areas of civil litigation, including aviation law and products liability cases against major corporations. A licensed pilot and former NASA aerospace engineer, Mike combines his technical knowledge and skills with his extensive litigation and trial experience for the benefit of his clients.

Practice Areas

Airplane & Helicopter Crashes Catastrophic Personal Injury & Death Truck & Car Accidents

Professional Background

Education

Publications

Community

Notable Cases

Mike's legal experience includes more than 35 years of litigating and trying lawsuits arising from catastrophic injuries and deaths due to the neglect of others or unsafe products. For most of his legal career, he has concentrated his practice on a diverse array of cases arising from crashes of aircraft and helicopters. In addition to providing the highest-quality legal services, Mike believes that it is his firm's responsibility not just to serve as our clients' legal advocate, but also to provide a comprehensive support system for our clients who have experienced a tragedy in their lives.

Going back to his roots as an engineer with NASA, Mike is a problem solver. In every case, he looks for ways to correct deficient behavior and prevent similar accidents from happening again. He has received national media attention as an advocate for stronger federal oversight to improve aviation safety, especially in the realm of air ambulance helicopter operations.

Mike successfully obtained settlements and verdicts in numerous products liability cases against aircraft and component manufacturers. In one products liability case against a helicopter manufacturer, he was able to negotiate a voluntary recall program, which afforded owners of a particular model of helicopter an opportunity to obtain a redesigned, more crashworthy fuel system to reduce the likelihood of post-crash fires.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mike was a senior aerospace engineer at NASA, where he worked on the Apollo-Soyuz and Space Shuttle programs and received special recognition from NASA for his contributions. In 2002, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics named Mike an Associate Fellow, a unique honor for an attorney. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University. In 2014, he received the Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award from the university's Department of Aerospace Engineering in the Dwight Look College of Engineering.

Mike is certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Civil Trial Advocate and by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Personal Injury Trial Law.

  • B.S. and M.S., Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University
  • J.D., The University of Texas at Austin
  • "Autonomous Vehicles — What Does the Future Hold?" (State Bar of Texas [SBOT], 2017 Advanced Personal Injury Law Course)
  • "A Game of Drones" (Trial, December 2015)
  • "Emerging Technology: Legal Issues Involving Drones and Autonomous Vehicles" (SBOT, 2016 Advanced Personal Injury Law Course)
  • "Managing the Complex Case" (SBOT, 2016 Advanced Trial Strategies Seminar Panel Presentation)
  • "Dealing With Drone Mischief" (Law360, October 13, 2015)
  • "Developing Strategies to Combat State and Federal Preemption Defenses" (SBOT, 2015 Advanced Personal Injury Law Course)
  • "Countdown to Success: Preparing the Plaintiff’s Case for Trial" (2015 SMU Air Law Symposium)
  • "Aviation Safety in the New Millennium" (Austin Metropolitan Breakfast Club, February 2014)
  • "Three Things Lawyers Can Learn From Teachers" (Texas Lawyer, August 11, 2014)
  • "Presenting Complex Facts to a Jury" (SBOT, 2014 Advanced Trial Strategies)
  • "The Art of Simplicity: Direct & Cross Examination in Complex Cases" (American Association for Justice [AAJ], 2014 Winter Convention)
  • "The Legislature’s Impact on the Trial Bar" (Dallas Trial Lawyers Association, 2014)
  • "Translating Technical Concepts for Today’s Jury" (AAJ, 2014 Annual Convention)
  • "It’s Complicated: Tips on Making Complex Cases Simple" (SBOT, 2014 Annual Meeting)
  • "The Art of Simplicity: Litigating Complex Cases" (SBOT, 2013 Advanced Civil Trial Course 2013; 2014 Embry Riddle Aviation Law and Insurance Symposium)
  • "Emerging Technologies and Challenges in Aviation Safety" (American Bar Association [ABA], October 2013)
  • "Plaintiff and Damages Expert — The Complex Path to a Fair and Reasonable Damages Award" (National Institute on Aviation Litigation Conference, ABA, June 2012)
  • "Legends of the Fall" (Texas Trial Lawyers Association [TTLA], September 2012)
  • "Transactions Gone Bad: Litigation Between Buyers and Sellers of Aircraft" (National Business Aviation Association, November 2012)
  • "Overview of Preemption in Aviation Product Liability Cases" (SBOT, 2008)
  • "Deposing and Cross-Examining the Design Engineer" (TTLA, 2008)
  • American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Texas Trial Lawyers Association
    • Past President (1997)
    • Board of Directors
  • American Association for Justice
    • Past Chair, Aviation Law Section
    • Board of Governors
  • Lawyer-Pilots Bar Association
  • American Astronautical Society
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
  • International Society of Air Safety Investigators
  • Department of Aerospace Engineering, Texas A&M University, Advisory Council
  • AIAA National Technical Committee, Legal Aspects of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Judicial Compensation Commission, State of Texas (2008–2017)
  • Texas Pattern Jury Committee Volume I (2008–2017)
  • Texas Pattern Jury Oversight Committee (2018)
  • Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Corporate Council Member (2017)

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 (Active)

On April 17, 2018, a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines experienced engine failure after departing from New York's LaGuardia airport. While in flight, a fan blade detached from the engine and punctured the body of the aircraft, causing rapid depressurization of the passenger cabin and partially ejecting one passenger, resulting in her death. Eight other passengers were physically injured and numerous passengers are suffering severe emotional trauma. The firm represents numerous passengers that continue to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from this horrific experience.

Taquan Air (Pending)

On July 10, 2018, a chartered flight operated by Taquan Air crashed into a mountain near Ketchikan, Alaska. The flight, which was operating under visual flight rules, was flying in conditions with extremely low visibility and turned in the direction of the elevated terrain. All of the passengers and the pilot survived. The firm represents three of the injured passengers.

Strothman v. Airbus Helicopters

On March 18, 2014, an Airbus AS 350 helicopter operated by a local TV station crashed and burned in downtown Seattle during rush-hour traffic. The pilot and the photojournalist were killed, and one person, located in a stationary vehicle on the ground, was seriously injured. The pilot experienced a sudden loss of control due to defects in the design of the helicopter’s hydraulic system as well as in the published flight manual and related manufacturer publications. Slack Davis Sanger represents the photojournalist.

Denning v. Airbus Helicopters

On February 22, 2013, an air ambulance helicopter crashed in winter flying conditions a few minutes after take-off, killing the pilot and a flight nurse and injuring another medical crew member. Investigators determined that ice trapped in the air inlet was ingested during flight, causing the engine to fail. Allegations against Airbus Helicopters and an entity that modified the air inlet system claimed the air inlet screen on the top of the helicopter was susceptible to passing water into the area in front of the engine, where the water was trapped and quickly froze. The plaintiff alleged that the ice and water were not detectable by the pilot during a pre-flight inspection. A design modification proposed by the plaintiff would have melted the ice and permitted the trapped water to escape the inlet harmlessly before freezing. The firm represented the flight nurse who was killed in the crash.

Reno Air Race Disaster

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 served as lead counsel for all of the spectator survivors and families in originating, negotiating, and implementing the Reno Air Disaster Compensation Fund. Insurance funds were distributed to claimants in January 2013, less than 8 months after the initial meeting with Ken Feinberg, Administrator of the Fund. The process resulted in complete exhaustion of all of the insurance funds available to cover the losses sustained by the spectators and their families.

American Airlines Flight 331

During a 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, many of whom suffered from PTSD.

Continental Flight 1404

On December 20, 2008, a Boeing 737 operated by Continental Airlines as Flight 1404 ran off the runway during takeoff from Denver International Airport, and a post-crash fire ensued. The captain and five passengers were seriously injured. The firm represented two passengers who suffered both physical injuries and PTSD.

Hagerman, et al. v. Hawker Beechcraft Corp., et al.

On April 11, 2008, the cabin door to a Beech King Air aircraft explosively blew off its hinges while the aircraft was on the ground with its engine idling, killing the mechanic who was attempting to enter the aircraft to check on a noise reported by the pilot. The plaintiff alleged that the Beech depressurization system, which failed to dissipate the cabin pressure when the aircraft landed, was defective. Beech settled with the plaintiffs for a substantial and confidential sum, and the case proceeded to trial against the aircraft owner and the pilot for failing to detect the pressurized cabin. The trial resulted in a record verdict and judgment against the pilot and aircraft operator.

Nemec v. Robinson Helicopter

On April 13, 2006, a Robinson R22 helicopter carrying a pilot and 4 passengers crashed from just a few feet above the ground and burst into flames. The impact was survivable, and there were no traumatic injuries to the occupants caused by the crash itself. However, a poorly designed fuel tank ruptured on impact and ignited. The pilot survived with severe burns but died about 18 months after the crash as a result of his extensive burn injuries. Two other passengers also died from thermal injuries. A fourth passenger survived with minor burns. The plaintiffs sued the helicopter manufacturer, alleging that the fuel system was defectively designed, causing the fuel tank to rupture under survivable and very light impact forces. The plaintiffs proposed a remedial design change in the fuel tank, fuel tank cap, and fuel lines. The helicopter manufacturer ultimately adopted design changes to its helicopter very similar to those advocated by the plaintiffs. In the monetary settlement that concluded the case, the manufacturer also agreed to implement a product retrofit program for U.S. owners to replace their defective systems with the improved system. The manufacturer also agreed to spot inspections by plaintiff’s counsel to inspect the retrofit production line and to observe the manufacturer’s progress replacing defective fuel tanks and fuel system components.

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 the two surviving passengers who was severely injured.

Fry, et al. v. Cessna Aircraft Company

On November 8, 2002, a Cessna 208B Caravan turboprop flying back to Texas from Nevada crashed near Flagstaff, Arizona, after it encountered icy conditions and, out of control, suddenly descended from cruise flight. The pilot and 3 passengers were killed. The pneumatic de-icing system was alleged to be defective. The alternative design proposed by the plaintiffs was ultimately adopted by Cessna and the pneumatic system discontinued. The case successfully resolved in a settlement for a confidential sum.

Talbott v. Eastern New Mexico Medical Center

On October 19, 2001, an air ambulance helicopter owned by Medical Transport and operated for Eastern New Mexico Medical Center crashed, killing two passengers and seriously injuring a third. The firm represented the family of a deceased passenger, and the case resulted in two favorable verdicts. After the retrial — again, a record verdict for the deceased passenger’s family — the hospital appealed. The appellate court stated, “We expressly adopt Section 411 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts as the law of New Mexico. We further conclude that the evidence presented at the second trial in this case was sufficient to establish the elements of Plaintiffs' claim under Section 411…” (Talbott v. Roswell Hospital Corp. d/b/a Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, 144 N.M. 753, 192 P.3d 267 [N.M. App. 2008]). The ruling greatly enhanced air ambulance safety by ensuring that hospitals scrutinize their helicopter operators to safeguard patients and personnel onboard.

Manus v. American Airlines (American Airlines Flight 1420)

American Airlines Flight 1420 crashed on June 1, 1999, at the Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, during an intense thunderstorm that had begun crossing the airport as the aircraft was landing. Ten passengers were killed in the crash, and many sustained serious physical injuries. The firm represented five surviving passengers and the family of two deceased passengers. Several of our clients who survived were diagnosed with severe PTSD resulting from their traumatic experience. Mike Slack was trial counsel in Manus v. American Airlines along with Little Rock attorney Jim Jackson; the jury awarded significant damages to a mother and two small children who survived the crash but sustained serious effects from PTSD. The Manus verdict was affirmed on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit (Manus v. American Airlines, Inc., 314 F. 3d 968 [8th Cir. 2003]). Manus remains one of the largest verdicts ever awarded to airline passengers for PTSD.

Hyatt v. ValuJet Flight 592

On May 11, 1996, Walter Hyatt, an American singer and songwriter and 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.

Himsel v. State of AK

In November 1992, a Beechcraft King Air B200 flown by the Alaska Army National Guard with passengers from the U.S. Army crashed into a mountain on its approach into the airport in Juneau, Alaska, resulting in eight casualties. Among those killed were the commander of the Alaska Army National Guard and a visiting major general from Indiana. The crash was attributed to pilot error. The case went to the Alaska Supreme Court, which held that the State was not immune from suit under the Alaska Tort Claims Act; the court also held that the federal Feres doctrine, which prevents armed service members from bringing tort suits against the federal government for injuries that arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service, did not preclude survivors from maintaining their negligence action pursuant to the Alaska Tort Claims Act (Estate of Himsel v. State of Alaska, 36 P. 3d 35 [Ak. 2001]). After being remanded to the trial court, all passenger claims were settled by the State of Alaska.

Vaughan v. Omniflight Helicopters

On August 27, 1990, Stevie Ray Vaughan, famed guitarist, was killed when the helicopter he was in 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.

  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

    Client
  • "In the 15 years since starting The Exhibit Company, I have worked with more than 400 law firms nationwide. I have had the distinct pleasure to work with Slack Davis Sanger for 13 of those 15 years. I can honestly say that they are not only exceptional at what they do, but also have the utmost integrity and are a pleasure to work with. Their desire to stay on the cutting edge of technology and persuasive communication is uncommon in the legal industry, and it shows in their results. I never hesitate to recommend their services."

    Sherrie Wirth, M.B.A.

    President, The Exhibit Company
  • "Our firm has worked with the attorneys and staff at Slack Davis Sanger since the firm was formed in 1993. They have assisted our clients with personal injury matters and have served as our co-counsel in planning for our clients’ personal aircraft ownership and operations issues and needs. Our experience and our clients’ experience with Slack Davis Sanger has been outstanding. We recommend the firm highly and always look forward to working with the lawyers and staff there."

    Stephen Saunders

    Saunders, Norval, Nichols & Atkins, L.L.P.
  • "The team at Slack Davis Sanger was invaluable in helping me through a difficult time. After being in a serious car accident and fracturing my spine, I was overwhelmed by the number of calls I received from different insurance companies and the various medical bills that kept coming in the mail. Mike Slack walked me through the entire process and made it seem easy. He and his team were always available to answer my questions, no matter how trivial, and kept my best interests at heart. They made sure the case was closed in a timely manner and that I received the best settlement possible, which gave me peace of mind to focus on my recovery."

    Jennifer A.

    Client
  • "It was obvious to me, very early in the process, that my family was in need of an advocate that could match the legal resources of the airline involved. Through the recommendation of a family attorney in Austin, I was most fortunate to contact Mike Slack with Slack Davis Sanger LLP. I had not been on the phone with Mike for more than 10 minutes when I knew that this was the man and legal team that would represent my family."

    Victor McLerran

    Client
  • "I am still amazed at how, through this difficult legal process, Mike Slack and his team consistently maintained a diligent direction to resolve this case in our best interest. We experienced an extraordinary sense of grace and humanity as we struggled through this tragedy. These are truly extraordinary people with extraordinary ability."

    Victor McLerran

    Client
  • "A disaster affecting the lives of many families led to our relationship with the Slack Davis Sanger team. While we never could be compensated fully for our loss, the team at Slack Davis Sanger removed much of the burden associated with dealing with the courts and corporate attorneys, allowing us to devote more of our attention to dealing with the very real burden of personal loss associated with losing loved ones to tragedy. They actively listened to what was important to us and crafted a legal strategy designed to meet our goals."

    Victor McLerran

    Client

Honors & Awards

  • Board Certified, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Personal Injury Trial Law
  • Board Certified, National Board of Trial Advocacy, Civil Trial Law
  • National Board of Trial Advocacy, “Civil Trial Advocate”
  • Registered Professional Engineer (Aerospace), Texas
  • Licensed Pilot, Airplane Single Engine Land, Instrument Rating
  • The Best Lawyers in America by BL Rankings (since 1999)
  • Texas A&M University Department of Aerospace Engineering, Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Award, 2014
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV®-rated attorney
  • Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers (since 2003)
  • Bendix National Design Team Award, Recipient (Unmanned Venutian Lander, 1973)

Contact Mike