SW Legal studies in Business

Airport Authority Protected by Sovereign Immunity from Suit Involving Airline Crash
Description

Kentucky court held that an airport corporation, because it was created by a county, had sovereign immunity like the county itself against a wrongful death suit brought by an airline for a crash that happened, according to the airline, due to negligent operation of the airport.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Wrongful Death; Sovereign Immunity

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

A Comair flight crashed when attempting to takeoff from the Lexington, Kentucky, airport. Due to construction at the airport, the normal path to the regular runway was blocked. Attempting to get to the runway to be used, the pilot accidentally turned on to another runway that was too short for use. The plane could not get airborne before the end of the runway, so the plane crashed. All passengers and two crew members were killed. Estates of the deceased passengers sued Comair for wrongful death. Comair then sued the Lexington airport and related agencies and individuals for improper maintenance of the airport. The trial court dismissed the suit; Comair appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The county airport corporation had sovereign immunity from Comair’s claims. Although the corporation was a true corporation that held title to airport real estate, it was created by the county and took advantage of financing sources provided by the county, so was an entity that received the same immunity as the county. The county was the parent entity of the company board and retained control of it. The county, like the state, has immunity against such suits.

Citation

Comair, Inc. v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Airport Corp., ---S.W.3d--- (2009 WL 3161372, Sup. Ct., Ky., 2009)

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