Why Germanwings could be held responsible for the Alps crash

Lufthansa Pilots Launch Two-Day Strike
FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 21: A man walkes in front of Lufthansa airplanes at the Frankfurt Airport on October 21, 2014 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Vereinigung Cockpit, the labor union that represents the pilots, launched the two-day strike yesterday that has been expanded from short and medium-distance flights on the first day to long haul flights today, affecting over 100,000 passengers. This is the seventh strike by Lufthansa and Germanwings (a Lufthansa subsidiary) pilots this year as the union attempts to maintain the Lufthansa pilots' early retirement guarantee, a benefit that Lufthansa is trying to cut. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
Photograph by Thomas Lohnes — Getty Images

The mental status and intentions of the co-pilot involved in March 24’s fatal crash of a Germanwings flight in the French Alps remains unclear, but the low-cost carrier and its insurance provider could still be on the hook for a substantial settlement. The crash, involving an Airus A320 en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, killed all 150 on board.

While it’s been reported that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz hid a mental condition from his employer, there is a chance the company could still be held responsible for legal claims from the victims’ families, according to the Wall Street Journal:

“The airline has unlimited liability unless it can prove it is free from fault,” said Steven Marks, a partner at aviation litigation firm Podhurst Orseck. The crash of the Airbus A320 on Tuesday killed all 150 people on board.

Flight 9525 co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was suffering from depression and had been excused from work by a neuropsychologist for a period including the day of the crash, according to a person familiar with the investigation. He ignored the advice and reported to work without informing the airline of the doctor’s note. Investigators were working to establish whether Mr. Lubitz intended to commit suicide.

Even so, the carrier could struggle to demonstrate it wasn’t partly at fault. “Apart from inadequate psychological monitoring, the carrier could have enacted the two-person cockpit rule that might have prevented the accident,” Mr. Marks said.

Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, already announced it would be paying €50,000 (about $54,000) to the relatives of each victim of the crash. That sum, however, will not affect future settlements. Lufthansa’s stock is down over 6% since the Germanwings crash.

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