On the night of June 1, 1999, American Airlines Flight 1420 crashed at the Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas, as a line of intense thunderstorms moved across the area. The flight had originated at the Dallas-Ft. Worth International (DFW) airport. There were 139 passenger on board and six crew members. Ten passengers were killed in the crash and scores sustained serious injuries. Slack & Davis attorneys represented 25 surviving passengers and the family of two deceased passengers.
Details about the Crash
- During the attempted landing, the aircraft’s spoilers were not deployed. The pilots lost control and the aircraft ran off the end of the runway and collided with metal structures.
- The aircraft broke apart in the mid-fuselage area and a fuel-fed fire resulted.
- Passengers who escaped the wreckage took refuge in the shallows of the Arkansas River while being pelted with heavy rain and exposed to extensive lightning strikes in the airport vicinity.
- Many of those passengers who were initially assessed as having minor or non-serious injuries later sustained debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSB).
Multi-district Litigation (MDL)
Slack & Davis attorneys represented 25 surviving passengers and the family of two deceased passengers. I was appointed by the late Honorable Henry Woods to the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in the ensuing federal Multi-district Litigation (MDL) 1308.
Among the passenger claims, certain claims were governed by state law and other passenger claims were controlled by the Montreal Convention. That is because some of the passengers were on domestic flights within the United States, and other passengers were holding tickets for international flights. The litigation underscored how very different legal standards for compensation of passengers’ damages can occur in the same airline crash.
Judge Woods segregated the domestic and international cases and began setting cases for damages trials. Nearly all of the cases settled, but a few were tried against American Airlines on damages. Of the cases tried, our firm was co-lead trial counsel for passengers Stephanie Manus and her two small children. The Manus case resulted in a very favorable verdict for compensatory damages which was affirmed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Manus v. American Airlines, 314 F.3d 968.
Despite the lessons of Flight 1420, American Airlines had a subsequent crash at Norman Manley International Airport on December 22, 2009, when the pilots of American Flight 331 attempted a landing during stormy conditions and also ran off the end of the runway.