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Aviation Attorney Gerald Sterns Claims Industry Indifference to Lap-Belt Problems in Wake of Flight 214

San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) July 18, 2013

When Asiana Airlines Flight 214 passengers seek relief from the courts, the going might not be a bumpy ride, thanks to long-time Bay Area aviation attorney, Gerald Sterns, who successfully litigated possibly the first aviation defective seatbelt case in history.

"The aviation industry has long known lap-belts are killers," said Sterns, adding the issue has irritated him for years.

In the case Sterns won, a private aircraft made a crash landing at the end of a box canyon, and all aboard survived impact. One passenger in the back seat, buckled into a lap-belt only, was seen to have gotten out of plane. He made it over to a log and sat down to wait for help, but died shortly after from a ruptured mesenteric artery (abdomen) due to being flailed over the lap-belt.

Sterns said, "The jury returned what we believe to have been the first wrongful death verdict against the aircraft manufacturer on a 'crashworthiness' theory as Sterns demonstrated the 'flail envelope.'" Sterns added, "Although the initial impact was purely a pilot error situation, the aggravated and unnecessary injury which caused death makes the aircraft defective."

It was not long after that general aviation aircraft began equipping shoulder restraints, first in the front seat only, then the back as well.

"However," added Sterns, "commercial airlines never budged on this. They grudgingly complied with FAA minimum standards for what G forces the seats could resist and not collapse or break free, but no more."

The interior pictures taken of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, evidenced many seats broke free and were askew in the cabin. How much maybe unnecessary damage was done to passengers from the lap-belt only, plus seats coming loose, no "brace" warning of the impending impact could be huge, as medical reports reference spinal injuries and paralysis.1

Sterns concluded, "It will be interesting to see to what extent the NTSB focuses in on the 'second impact' and 'improperly packaged passenger' problem. We also wonder whether the FAA will react at all, or just go along with the status quo, as it has for so long."

"Currently, added Sterns, "the safest seat in the airplane remains the five-point restraint seats pilots and crew buckle themselves into. Passengers in first class have a three-point restraint. The rest are strapped into the type of lap-belts that cause significant injury."

Sterns says proper packaging of a passenger in an aircraft would include at a minimum a shoulder restraint, such as the three-point system now mandated in all automobiles. Sterns believes air bags would be better but probably impractical in a modern commercial airliner. However, he says there is no reason a three or five point system could not be installed in all airline seats, coach as well as first class.

Sterns also litigated on behalf of passengers board KAL, and Air Philippines case in 2011, and earlier passengers and crew aboard Alohoa Airlines after the top of the Aloha plane famously peeled off mid-flight.

Sterns said additional information about Asiana crash and other Boeing cases will be updated at

1 Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2013,

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