From the 1972 crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 in the Florida Everglades, to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the tragedies of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 resulting from faulty sensors on the Boeing 737 Max 8, Podhurst Orseck has grown from aviation litigation pioneer to the premier firm of its kind globally. The firm has handled hundreds of aviation-related cases and is the only firm to try a Commercial Part 121 case to verdict in more than two decades and continues to be a global leader in the category. In the courtroom or the halls of Congress, our attorneys have tried, testified, and advocated in pursuit of client justice and the flying public’s safety.
In the early 1970s, few, if any law firms claimed “expertise” in aviation litigation. That changed after December 29, 1972, when Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades. A trial judge called on rising, young litigator Aaron Podhurst to handle the 300 cases filed by survivors and families of the 101 people who lost their lives. Podhurst cleared the docket in 11 months.
Today, Podhurst Orseck is the world’s premier law firm in general and commercial aviation disaster litigation. Its attorneys currently are handling lawsuits related to the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in 2014; and the crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, both related to faulty sensors on the Boeing 373 Max 8 airliner.
Aviation law is highly complicated and costly. Cases often end up in federal court, or international jurisdictions and forums. Litigating events that occurred abroad is highly challenging; even U.S. courts express a growing reluctance to hear them, leaving other “aviation” law firms unwilling to represent crashes in foreign courts. What’s more, costs climb as clients’ distinct issues often require esteemed and expensive expert witnesses. Podhurst Orseck believes that the risk is worth it and has positioned itself as a go-to firm for airline litigation regarding a crash anywhere in the world.
Beyond helping survivors and families find closure, Podhurst Orseck has had a lasting impact on aviation safety regulations and operations. The Federal Aviation Administration on several occasions has revised its safety guidelines following findings arising during cases handled by the firm. One example: following the trial of the 1997 crash of Silk Air Flight 185, a Boeing 737, the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA ordered every 737 to be retrofitted with redundant systems to help prevent such incidents in the future.
The firm’s successes have also led major insurance carriers to re-adjust premiums given that losses related to damage awards were surpassing funds on reserve. The firm’s attorneys themselves often are called on by regulators, lawmakers, and the news media to help each understand what went wrong, how it can be improved, and how such catastrophes can be avoided in the future.
From the 1971 crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 in the Florida Everglades, to civilian, commercial, and military mishaps around the globe, to the ongoing saga of Boeing’s flawed 373 Max 8 airliner, the following map offers a glimpse of the most complex and highly visible aviation cases Podhurst Orseck has litigated.