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Flight 1549 Hudson Crash Suits Governed by Maritime Law?

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By Admin on January 23, 2009 4:06 PM

Of the many questions following last week's miraculous crash landing of U.S. Airways flight 1549 into the Hudson River, one is which laws will govern any lawsuits resulting from the crash. Some legal experts argue that federal maritime law will apply.

John Hession, a Manhattan maritime attorney told Newsday that maritime law would apply because after the Airbus A320 crashed into the Hudson, "it ceases to fly and starts to float, and it becomes a vessel, and a lifesaving vessel." Federal maritime law (or admiralty law) covers public navigable waters, including navigable streams, rivers and lakes. Hession, who plans to meet with multiple passenger from the flight, said that maritime law generally offers victims higher damage awards.

"Pilot's pilot" Chesley "Sulley" Sullenberger, along with his crew, has received enormous kudos and thanks for the the emergency landing into the Hudson. All passengers and crew members survived. Sullenberger even drew praise from President Obama. New York Daily News reports that Obama invited Sullenberger and his family to join the inaugural festivites and spend time with the Obama family. President Obama is quoted as saying, "[i]t made me think, if everybody did their job, whatever that job was, as well as that pilot did his job, we'd be in pretty good shape."

However, Newsday cites a North Carolina aviation attorney as saying that a number of the passengers suffered physical and psychological injuries, which reportedly can include "pre-impact terror."