Case Caption: Coastal Air Transport v. Edward Royer and Florence RoyerCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0028Date: 06/03/2016Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

Considering a passenger air carrier's appeal from a February 25, 2015 judgment issued by the Superior Court in favor of the appellees, who were passengers on a flight from St. Croix to Dominica in 2004 and who were injured when a door on the aircraft opened during flight, and the passengers' cross-appeal from the Superior Court's decision to sua sponte remit the jury's award of economic damages to one appellee (Florence Royer) based on its own weighing of the evidence, the Superior Court's decision to deny the passenger air carrier's motion for judgment as a matter of law is affirmed. Given the strong policy expressed in Virgin Islands jurisprudence to permit juries to come to rational conclusions, rather than be instructed to do so by the court, it is held that the principle of res ipsa loquitur as applied in Restatement (Second) of Torts § 328D and the majority procedural approach represents the most apt rule for the Virgin Islands, such that a jury in the Virgin Islands is permitted to infer a defendant's negligence from the happening of an extraordinary event under the defendant's control, rather than being compelled to find negligence in absence of evidence to the contrary. Because a rational jury could have found that all elements of the passengers' negligence claims were satisfied under the facts presented, the passenger air carrier's request for judgment as a matter of law was properly denied. In addition, the passenger air carrier's argument that the passengers' claims are limited and/or barred by the Warsaw Convention and Montreal Convention because they failed to show how the incident on the flight amounted to an "accident" under these treaties is waived, because the passenger air carrier failed to assert its argument regarding the Warsaw Convention as an affirmative defense in its first responsive pleading, and it raised its argument regarding the Montreal Convention as to all of the passengers for the first time on appeal. Regarding the cross-appeal, given the decision reached in Antilles School v. Lembach, S. Ct. Civ. No. 2015-0039 (V.I. Mar. 14, 2016) to not recognize remittitur in the Virgin Islands, the Superior Court's grant of remittitur is reversed and the Superior Court is directed, on remand, to restore the jury's original damages award to Florence Royer.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion