Crash at the National Championship Air Races in Reno


The tragedy at the Reno Air Races on September 16, 2011, has resulted in Slack & Davis being contacted and retained by a number of injured spectators. Since this tragic event occurred, we have maintained a very focused approach with these cases. This piece addresses some of the questions and concerns raised by our clients and the lawyers who have contacted us about these cases.

This event falls into a genre of cases involving harm to spectators at events. While this is the first reported occurrence involving injuries to spectators at an air racing event, there have been prior occurrences and instances where multiple injuries and deaths have resulted at events such as air shows and auto racing. In most of those instances, the resulting allegations have been directed at the event sponsors and organizers for placing spectators in the foreseeable zone of danger.

This particular occurrence involves injuries and deaths to persons on the ground caused by the high speed crash of an aircraft in proximity to spectators. Our aviation expertise will matter and will become a significant factor benefitting our clients in these cases. Because we are pilots, because we have experience flying aircraft of the type flown in air races, and because we have years of experience with aviation activities and events like this, we understand the unique circumstances associated with air racing.

One common area of concern raised by our clients is whether the involvement of lawyers will cause the National Championship Air Races to end as a result of this occurrence. We do not know. There will be many other factors that influence the future of the air races besides the civil justice system. But we understand our clients’ concerns and we take them seriously. Our clients, as well as many others attending the event, are enthusiastic air racing fans. They are concerned about lawyers who are not familiar with the sport or with aviation getting involved, seeking publicity for themselves and pursuing unfounded and misguided allegations. This is a legitimate concern and one that we have had on our minds since this tragedy unfolded. We will seek a leadership role in this matter, as we have done in every major aviation catastrophe in which we have been involved, and will do everything within our power to prevent the inexperience of and opportunism by others from adversely influencing the proper course of this litigation and our clients’ cases.

Our first and only commitment to our clients is to secure optimum compensation for them and their families from the responsible parties as efficiently as we can. We will always maintain that goal as our highest priority. As with every aviation case we handle, we are thoroughly investigating the totality of circumstances. Only after we have investigated and assessed the factual information and legal options will we bring claims. Even then, claims will only be brought against those responsible parties whose negligence was a cause of the occurrence and harm to our clients.

During the course of our representation, we will formulate specific recommendations for improving air racing safety and eliminating manageable risks to spectators and racers.  Over the years, we have succeeded in prompting many changes to the aviation industry by proactively seeking affirmative safety measures in the aftermath of a tragedy. Besides our clients, we have friends and colleagues who are involved in air racing. They are at risk also. We are strongly committed to playing a constructive role in this tragedy to improve the margins of safety for both spectators and racers. As we have demonstrated in our lengthy history of representing families touched by air crash tragedy, aggressive and skilled representation will produce optimum compensation, but it can also produce tangible safety changes which reduce or eliminate the risk of a future tragedy.