Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Plane Crash Victims Sue Co-Pilot's Doctor for Failure to Report Mental Health Problems

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Jun 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

On March 24, 2015, Germanwings flight A320 crashed in the French Alps. All 150 people on board, including the pilot and co-pilot, were killed. Evidence later showed that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the plane. After the crash, family members of the victims sought answers, but their compensation was limited by German law. A number of lawsuits were filed, including a lawsuit against Lubitz's doctor who did not report the young man's mental health problems.

The father of one of the victims has filed a lawsuit against Lubitz's physician for allegedly failing to report Lubitz's mental problems. The 61-year-old father of a young woman who died in the accident blames the physician for not communicating the pilot's mental issues to the airline or German regulators. The man is also filing a lawsuit against Lufthansa's medical experts, and German aviation authorities.

"Confidentiality no longer applies,” said the man in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, “because she knew her patient was a pilot with mental issues that were repeatedly expressed.”

In the months leading up to the crash, Lubitz had seen more than 40 doctors. None of those doctors brought their concerns to Germanwings or aviation authorities. The only time the airline became aware of a “severe depressive episode,” was in 2009, when Lubitz himself informed Lufthansa about his mental health. His pilot training was put on hold, but he was later declared fit to continue.

He was taking the highest dose of an anti-depressant, which he reported was making him restless. He was also concerned about losing his eyesight. Shortly before the crash, Lubitz sent an email to his doctor, which reportedly said, “I am afraid to go blind and I can't get this possibility out of my head.”

Another report from the French crash investigation agency found that Lubitz had been recommended for a stay in a psychiatric hospital only two weeks before the crash.

Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of Germany's doctor's association, criticized both the airline and German aviation regulators for allowing Lubitz to fly and not monitoring his health status more closely. "As doctors, we find it appalling that both the Federal Aviation Authority and Lufthansa knew that this pilot had records of severe depression but underwent no particular checks," Montgomery said in an interview.

More family members have filed a lawsuit against the Arizona training facility where Lubitz received part of his pilot's training. Filing the lawsuit in a U.S. court may allow families to seek greater compensation for their lost loved ones. Germanwings offered families about $80,000 per victim for financial assistance and pain and suffering.

In the legal action against the Arizona flight school, owned by Lufthansa, lawyers for the family allege that this was where Lubitz's psychological problems first came to light. As a result, he never should have been allowed to continue his training or subsequent employment as a pilot.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical error, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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