February 19, 2016

Heath v. Swift Wings, Inc. | Case Brief - (North Carolina 1979) - 297 N.C. 453, 256 S.E.2d 806

FACTS: Fred Heath loaded and reloaded the Piper aircraft to improve the plane's balance.  The plane took off but didn't gain enough altitude and crashed.  A freelance consultant testified that the pilot should have used the flaps on the plane and furthermore should have been able to make a controlled landing in the cornfield.

HISTORY: Trial court is claimed to have been in error.

ISSUE: Should the negligence instruction use and objective standard?

HOLDING: Yes

RATIONALE: "The trial court improperly introduced a subjective standard of care into the definition of negligence by referring to the "ordinary care and caution, which an ordinary prudent pilot having the same training and experience as Fred Heath would have used in the same or similar circumstances."

The instruction allowed the jury to consider Heath's own training not an objective standard generally applicable to all pilots.

DISPOSITION: New trial.