Cyclic Control Seize Results in Helicopter Crash Lawsuit

Case Title: Talbott v. Eastern New Mexico Medical Center

On October 19, 2001, an Aerospatiale AS350B2 air ambulance helicopter owned by Medical Transport and operated for Eastern New Mexico Medical Center crashed, killing two passengers and seriously injuring a third and the pilot.

The helicopter was registered to and operated by Medical Air Transport Inc. from Payson, Arizona. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a visual flight rule flight plan was filed. At the time of the crash, the pilot had finished conducting landing zone training with the New Mexico State Police. He then took three members of the state police on board for an orientation flight to demonstrate the ability of the aircraft to approach and land at the scene of an accident.

NTSB Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated the probable cause of the accident was the seizing of the cyclic control but could not determine the reason for this. They also stated that the pilot did not have enough altitude to regain control before the crash.

Enhanced Air Ambulance Safety Measures

Slack Davis Sanger represented the family of a deceased passenger, and the case resulted in two favorable verdicts. The plaintiffs alleged that the hospital and medical center were liable for negligently hiring the helicopter contractor. 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. The decision means that hospitals must be a partner with the air ambulance companies on developing and enforcing safety processes.

Mike Slack has been practicing law for over 36 years and has litigated hundreds of lawsuits. His experience as a licensed pilot and former NASA aerospace engineer gives him unique insight into aviation accident lawsuits.

Ladd Sanger is an attorney and a licensed pilot who focuses on aviation accidents, including product liability, product litigation, and representing clients who have been injured as a result of aviation accidents. His experience as a pilot helps him understand the technical aspects of aviation crashes.

Date of Incident

October 19, 2001

Location of Incident

Roswell, New Mexico

Represented By:

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