CHICAGO (CN) – A Southwest Airlines flight attendant who was knocked unconscious by turbulence on a flight cannot prevail in her lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration over weather information provided to the plane’s captain, the 7th Circuit ruled.
On February 10, 2006, Southwest flight 2745 took off from Cleveland Hopkins International bound for Chicago Midway. Peggy LeGrande was one of several flight attendants on the plane.
Earlier that day a National Weather Service meteorologist had issued a Meteorological Impact Statement (MIS) reporting moderate turbulence and isolated severe turbulence within the FAA Cleveland Air Traffic Control Center’s area of responsibility. Janus believed that the weather system was moving eastward from Cleveland.
Southwest airlines provided the captain of flight 2745 with a pre-flight info packet which included weather info, advising him to fly at 30,000 ft. The captain, however, asked for and received permission to fly at 20,000 feet.
After the plane encountered a light to moderate bump, the captain advised the flight attendants to return to their seats. Within seconds, the plane encountered a patch of severe turbulence.
LeGrande, who had not had time to secure herself in a seat, was injured and rendered unconscious. Physicians on the plane cared for her until landing at Chicago Midway.
LeGrande filed an administrative claim seeking $25 million in damages in September 2007. The complaint alleged that the FAA had breached its duty of responsible care for aircraft, passengers, crew and cargoes by failing to warn the captain of turbulent weather conditions.
U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall, applying Ohio law to the federal statute, found that the FAA did owe a duty to LeGrande but had not breached the duty here.
“Ms. LeGrande… has pointed to no statute, regulation or other directive that imposes on FAA traffic controllers the responsibility to transmit MIS weather products to pilots. Indeed, a review of the governing directives makes clear that no such obligation exists,” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote.
“Even if… there may be occasions when an air traffic controller is obliged to alert aloft aircraft to a weather condition such as turbulence when that condition is not included in a current advisory, we do not think that it is plausible to read [FAA regulations] to require that the controller advise the pilot of the content of an MIS.”The court also refused to allow LeGrande to add claims against the National Weather Service for negligently failing to provide turbulence predictions for dissemination to affected pilots. The agency must be given more notice before a suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act for a suit to proceed.