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JetBlue Sued Over Pilot's In-Flight Breakdown

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on June 13, 2012 11:51 AM

A lawsuit over a JetBlue pilot's midair mental breakdown has landed in court. Ten passengers are suing JetBlue for allowing the pilot to fly in the first place, the Associated Press reports.

The plaintiffs were among 131 passengers and six crew members aboard JetBlue Flight 191 on March 27 when pilot Clayton Osbon allegedly ran screaming through the plane's cabin making incoherent statements. Passengers restrained Osbon, and the plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

Many passengers said they were terrified as the in-flight incident went down. But that's not the main cause of action in their lawsuit.

The passengers' JetBlue suit accuses the airline of "gross negligence" for allowing pilot Clayton Osbon to fly. JetBlue should have known that Osbon was unfit for his pilot duties, the suit states, according to the AP.

A JetBlue spokesman did not immediately comment about the suit, the AP reported.

In general, a lawsuit alleging negligence by a company for allowing an unfit employee to perform work duties could pursue several legal theories. For example, the suit could allege negligent hiring, suggesting the company failed to conduct proper background checks or mental-health evaluations for pilots entrusted with passengers' lives.

The suit could also allege negligent retention, suggesting the company was careless in allowing an employee to remain on the job after learning the employee was unfit after he was hired.

The passengers' JetBlue lawsuit was filed Wednesday. As for pilot Clayton Osbon, he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a felony charge of interference with a flight crew. A mental competency hearing is set for Friday, the Amarillo Globe-News reports.

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