Turkish Airlines Prepares for Legal Claims Related to Turbulence

Kreindler is closely monitoring the investigation into the turbulence event that occurred on board Turkish Airlines Flight TK-1 on Saturday, March 9th. The regularly-scheduled flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York encountered sudden, severe turbulence as the Boeing 777 aircraft flew just north of Boston approximately 40 minutes prior to landing. Passengers were violently thrown about the cabin and launched into the aircraft’s ceiling. At least 29 people were reported to have sustained injuries that included lacerations and fractures, and 10 were said to have been taken to hospitals after landing.

Montreal Convention Governs International Air Travel
Turkish Airlines is legally responsible for compensating passengers who were injured as a result of Flight TK-1’s unexpected turbulence event. The Montreal Convention governing international air travel permits passengers to obtain monetary recovery if they are physically injured in an "accident" that occurs on board the aircraft or during the course of boarding or disembarking. While the text of the Convention does not explicitly define the meaning of an "accident," the Supreme Court has interpreted the term to mean an unusual or unexpected event that occurs external to the passenger. Moderate-to-severe turbulence incidents causing injuries to passengers are widely considered accidents under Montreal Convention case law.

Recovering Damages from Turkish Airlines
Under the terms of the Convention, passengers injured on Flight TK-1 will be permitted to recover damages from Turkish Airlines even without proof of negligence on part of the airline. In other words, even if the pilots could not have anticipated the occurrence of severe turbulence, passengers are still entitled to be compensated for the value of their injuries up to the Convention’s "cap" of 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (approximately $157,000).  Passengers whose injuries warrant greater compensation will be able to recover more than the cap permits, unless the airline is able to prove that its pilots could not reasonably have been aware of the likelihood of dangerous weather and otherwise acted without negligence.  This may prove difficult for the airline, since the National Weather Service issued local advisories on Saturday prior to the incident warning pilots of expected turbulence. Turkish Airlines officials confirmed that Flight TK1 had "encountered unusual turbulence about 40 minutes before landing," stating that it was "deeply saddened by this unfortunate experience, and closely [monitoring] the health status of injured passengers, and is making resources available to them."

Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
Kreindler is one of the largest and most distinguished aviation accident law firms in the world. We represent only victims and their families, and have served in leadership positions in most major aviation accident cases. Our attorneys include commercially licensed airplane and helicopter pilots and trained accident investigators. Kreindler's clients benefit from the technical experience and advanced litigation skills that we bring to a multitude of cases ranging from in-flight Montreal Convention accidents to domestic and international airline disasters.