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World Birdstrike Association

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Bird/Wildlife Strike Court Cases

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Ante Matijaca - Policy Director, WBA.

 

According to “The World Birdstrike Association ambitions until 2014” one of the main tasks of the Policy, as component of the WBA, is to “raise awareness”. Liability Task Group as Policy part, among others, researches and works on establishing database of existing bird/wildlife court cases worldwide. Primarily it would be an overview of all court cases. Upon showing the interest we can get to the core of some of these cases, or at least reach an adequate explanation.

legalbirdAs serious threat to air traffic safety, bird/wildlife strikes often cause direct aircraft damages, whereas, in certain cases, it may cause higher degree consequences (total destruction of aircraft, injuries or death of passengers, crewmembers or third persons on the ground, different indirect and hidden damages to aircraft operator, to local community etc.). Therefore, in the search for increased safety in the air and for the ground airport operators, aircraft manufactures, engine manufacturers, aircraft operators and others are making significant efforts in attempt to eliminate bird/wildlife hazard. In spite of all efforts if a bird/wildlife strikes occur some of the air traffic participants, particularly airports and aircraft operators and their insurers, may face serious compensation claims regarding property damages, profit losses and eventual injuries or death of persons.

Available information shows that many airport operators have not had instances of bird/wildlife strikes, on the airport or in the vicinity of the airport. The reason for this is that they take “reasonable measures” to prevent the bird/wildlife strikes. In other words, it is imperative that necessary measures are applied, and that actions are taken to minimize danger that birds/wildlife may cause to air traffic. Efforts should be made, and all actions should be structured in order that “potential omissions” do not occur out of negligence, indifference or lack of undertaking of necessary safety measures.

At the same time the failure to exercise proper care in bird/wildlife control at some airports or in their vicinity, will render them liable under valid law provisions. In case of injury or death of passengers or other persons, as a result of a bird/wildlife strike to an aircraft, and if that bird/wildlife strike has occurred because of deficiency of proper procedures, lack of adequate bird/wildlife control or failure on the part of the airport operator to take reasonable actions for preventing bird/wildlife hazard, then airport operator, its insurer and other authorities are liable to face legal suit from and on behalf of those persons. On the other hand, depending on various legal systems, concerning above mentioned persons, responsible authorities of the entities which are liable for these difficult consequences, may be faced also with criminal liability according to appropriate national Tort Laws. Degree of the criminal responsibility depends on the circumstances that led to the injury or loss of human life. However, it will primarily depend whether the omissions are result of the negligence or willful misconduct.

It is also important to note that other entities may be responsible for the consequences as a result of the bird/wildlife strikes. Beside the other participants in the air traffic (ATC and air carriers) different state institutions (ministries and agencies as regulators) and local communities (as a provider of planning zoning in their areas) may also be responsible.

Finally, reviewed court rulings in favour of plaintiffs demonstrate many omissions by different defendants primarily by the airports. On the other hand, in the legal suits where defendants (airports) play main role, plaintiffs are not able to proof negligence, or they are not able to demonstrate all required evidence of omissions on the part of defendants.

 

On behalf of Liability Task Group
WBA Policy Director
Ante Matijaca

 

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