Lawsuit against city dismissed after teen falls from plane - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Lawsuit against city dismissed after teen falls from plane

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A lawsuit filed against the city of Charlotte by the family of a teen who fell from the wheel well of an airplane from Charlotte to Boston has been dismissed.

According to city officials, Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis dismissed the lawsuit late Wednesday afternoon.  The body of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale was found in Massachusetts in mid-November 2010.

Chris Chestnut, the Tisdale family's attorney told WBTV by phone Wednesday, "This motion was premature. Every American is entitled access to court; the Tisdales are no different. But they were stripped of this right today. There are questions that are vital to national security. We were seeking answers to these questions and now they're being covered up."

Investigations with the TSA and FAA determined that Tisdale had fallen from US Airways Flight 1176, as it began its descent into Boston's Logan airport.

Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann stated that "while the City remains saddened by Mr. Tisdale's death and sympathizes with his family, the Court's ruling confirms our belief that the City should not be held legally liable for Mr. Tisdale's decisions and actions."

The lawsuit claimed that the City was liable for Tisdale's wrongful death based on claims that the City breached a duty to reasonably secure the airport and failed to adequately warn the public of the dangers of entering a restricted area and boarding a plane as a passenger in the wheel well of an airplane.

Judge Lewis dismissed the case saying that "nothing suggests that the City acted willfully or wantonly, the legal standard for a land owner to be liable to a trespasser."

They say that once Tisdale allegedly entered a secured area and climbed into the wheel well, he was himself negligent.

Chestnut disagreed and said, "No one knows. There was no factual evidence presented in court. No one knows how he got on the plane. No one knows if he was dead before he fell out of the plane. That's what we were trying to find out."

It is believed that Tisdale managed to sneak onto Charlotte Douglas International Airport grounds through a hole in the fence line.

According to portions a final report from the TSA issued in 2011, the plane Tisdale boarded had been sitting away from the gate, idle for 37 minutes.

Documents obtained by WBTV show that there are 42 police officers assigned to the Charlotte-Douglas International airport. Based on this survey, that is the smallest security force in the nation's top 20 airports.

The understaffed staff was also mentioned in the TSA's investigation into the Tisdale case.

"In my opinion, the current law enforcement agency at CLT does not adequately reflect the type, size and functions of an organization that should be in place at a major metropolitan airport," the report stated.

"The City owes a duty of care to the general public, and not to those who, like Mr. Tisdale, seek to breach security," Judge Lewis noted in his dismissal of the case. 

Hagemann noted that while the plaintiffs have the right to appeal, he is confident that Judge Lewis' ruling will stand.

Chestnut told WBTV the Tisdale family is "exploring avenues of appeal."

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