Newsday - March 30, 2000
Families Can Sue for Damages
FAMILIES of the 230 victims of TWA Flight 800 will be able to
collect for pain, suffering, and other damages for which they might
otherwise not have qualified if the plane had crashed in international
waters, a federal appeals court affirmed yesterday.
In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a
lower court's ruling on the matter, saying the July 17, 1996, crash
eight miles off Long Island occured in U.S. waters. That means the
Death on the High Seas Act, long considered an outdated law that
severely limits liability to the plane's owner and manufacturer, does
The decision noted that President Ronald Reagan in 1988 extended
the territorial sea of the United States from three miles to 12 miles
offshore. Circuit Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying the
panel seemed to be ignoring case law in an attempt to provide the
families with potentially more generous awards.
Families of the victims are now suing TWA and Boeing, the plane's
manufacturer, and Hydro-Aire, the engine manufacturer, claiming
negligence in construction and maintenance.
Steve Pounian, an attorney for Kreindler and Kreindler, which
represents 86 of the families, said families stand to possibly collect
for loss of companionship and care, as opposed to smaller amounts
they may have been eligible for under only "pecuniary damages.
Boeing spokesman Russ Young said the ruling doesn't change the
company's defense. "We will continue preparing a vigorous defense
of the design, manufacture and operation of the 747," he said.
Trials in the cases are expected to begin in the winter.