JetBlue: No Way to Prevent Pilot’s Meltdown

JetBlue Airways Corp. believes it had no way to know it should have grounded a former pilot before his midair meltdown forced an emergency landing, and that his $14.9 million damages lawsuit should be dismissed.

“There is absolutely nothing JetBlue could have done to prevent the unforeseeable and scary events” caused by Clayton Osbon’s erratic behavior on the March 27, 2012 flight he had been co-piloting, lawyers for JetBlue said in a joint filing last Wednesday with Osbon’s lawyer in Manhattan federal court.

The scheduled New York-to-Las Vegas flight was disrupted when Osbon began running through the aisles, ranting about religion and terrorism and making such exclamations as “We’re not going to Vegas” and “You’d better start praying now!”

A co-pilot landed the plane safely in Amarillo, Texas after Osbon was subdued by passengers.

Osbon said he had suffered before the flight from a “complex partial brain seizure” that JetBlue should have caught, after he missed a preflight meeting and appeared disoriented and slow.

He sued for lost wages, emotional distress, and damages for being subjected to public ridicule.

In the filing, JetBlue said it did not know before the flight that Osbon might be ill, or would act as he did.

The carrier plans by June 16 to formally argue that Osbon cannot prove his case, federal law preempts his state law claims, and the court lacks jurisdiction over his negligence claim.

A settlement has been discussed, but is unlikely to be reached before a judge decides whether to dismiss the case, the filing said.

Osbon sued exactly three years after the flight, meeting New York’s three-year statute of limitations for negligence claims.

His lawsuit was filed three days after the crash of a Germanwings plane in the French Alps, which killed 150 people.

The case is Osbon v. JetBlue Airways Corp, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-02306.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Ex-Pilot’s Suit Says JetBlue Should Have Known He Was Unfit to Fly