Swissair Disaster & Aircraft Accident Litigation


Guerry R. Thornton, Jr.

Copyright © - Guerry R. Thornton, Jr. 1998


The Swissair MD-11 crash near Halifax is a tragedy for the victims and their families. A full investigation may disclose causes which, if guarded against, could have prevented this catastrophe.

Based on reports, a fire may have broken out near the cockpit or one engine. The aircraft was located 5 miles off Peggy's Cove, about 50 miles SW of Halifax where the plane was in distress. As insurance and airline agents, including lawyers, will investigate, it is vital that legal systems protect the rights of victims.

The laws controlling air disasters come from concepts such as product defect, negligence and warranty. A great body of aviation law will control the rights of all parties, including international law, high-tech proof, multi-country agreements, damages, choice of venue and parties.

The investigation should be lead by the Transportation Safety Board from Ottawa, with the cooperation of NTSB from the U.S. and Swiss inspectors. Federal agencies will file an accident report and private parties can investigate the cause of the disaster.

"The liability of all parties must be evaluated", says Guerry R. Thornton, Jr., an Atlanta lawyer with Netlaw, "including pilot error, maintenance companies, aircraft and component defects." Also, other airlines - such as Delta, which may have booked, co-shared passengers and crossed-used personnel - must be reviewed as to multi- party duties, says Thornton from Atlanta.

Carriers in international disasters may attempt to limit liability under multi-national conventions, but usually these agreements do not restrict multi-million dollar victim awards against product makers and other parties at fault, says Thornton citing case law.

The origin of Swissair 111, the aircraft maker and suppliers mean that the U.S. court system may be best suited to decide liability and damages. "The American system has the most extensive aviation rules and the fairest laws," says Thornton who has a website - - with articles on mass tort litigation.


Guerry R. Thornton, Jr.404/467-1670 (TEL) - USA
Netlaw 404/237-4148 (FAX) - USA


THE AUTHOR: Guerry R. Thornton, Jr., a lawyer in Atlanta, handles Phen/Fen claims & is counsel in the Sankey action; he has prosecuted claims in the $2.5 billion Dalkon Shield plan & the $230 million Dupont Plaza Hotel disaster; he is a member of The Association of Trial Lawyers of America & has published articles on mass tort litigation in Trial Magazine & The National Law Journal; his Internet cite is:

For a copy of any of any article, contact Netlaw by phone, U.S. Mail or e-mail.