Yesterday’s story about an American Airlines passenger that collapsed and died received a lot of press due to allegations that two oxygen tanks they are required to have were empty.
Leaving aside the issue of whether the initial report is accurate — American disputes the story — is litigation a potential factor by the grieving family?
Assuming the initial story to be accurate, this is a good example of why gut reactions may not be good lawyering. For even if the airline was negligent in not having the oxygen available, the next question must be: Did it matter?
Lawsuits aren’t just about negligence, but proving that the negligence was a substantial cause of the injury. And so the question is, if the oxygen was there, is there a substantial chance it would have made a difference in saving her life?
This ER doctor says no way, writing, “the sad truth is that if you have a cardiac arrest when you’re 30,000 feet over the ocean, then you are likely going to die whether the oxygen tanks are working or not.”
Wrongful death litigation most often occurs due to a potent mix of grief and anger. Losing a family member is bad enough, but when the mix includes a large corporation that may have played a factor in causing the death, it’s easy to see why lawyers are contacted. This is a good example on how and why one must be particularly careful with the medicine before walking down this litigation road. For it may not end well at all for the attorney and the family. The final autopsy report is likely to hold the clues.
The initial report from the New York Medical Examiner’s Office was that the passenger “died of complications from heart disease and diabetes.”