Today Bernard Farret, the DA of Pontoise has accused two poor Continental Airline mechanics of manslaughter because a part of a plane they repaired fell off and ending up causing the death of 113 people. To me it´s obvious that these people are not guilty. I thought that America was the only country in which money and jail sentences were supposed to bring comfort to accident victims or their relatives. But it seems that USA is not alone. Without knowing all the details but being a jet pilot myself I think that it is absurd to think that the accused mechanics could have possibly known, first that the part of the plane would fall off but secondly, that once on the runway it was going to be picked up by another plane and end up in the tragic death of 113 people. I think that justice is there to condemn the guilty, not to find the guilty when accidents happen. And this one was certainly one freak accident. Moreover if mechanics can be put on trial over their work like this how about car mechanics?

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Ignace / @micronauta on March 12, 2008  · 

I agree. But, you do know that America is not a country, don’t you?

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a. on March 12, 2008  · 

I may be wrong (maybe an American can correct me), but I thing that the US is one of the few countries that doesn’t routinely persecute those involved in aircraft accidents, one of the reasons being that it is not good for safety as he truth may not come out during an investigation if those involved are afraid of being sent to jail. In other parts of the world it is very common to make crime scenes of accidents. In many countries the criminal investigation takes precedence.

The Concorde wouldn’t have crashed if it wasn’t for the metal strip, so the mechanics’ actions (or Continental’s substandard maintenance) contributed to the accident. French law probably says they have to be investigated. But they haven’t been charged yet and the case may still be dropped.

And it does happen with other vehicles too, there was a case against Volvo for the Mont Blanc tunnel fire.

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Eric on March 13, 2008  · 

My car has a flat tire, and I am too much of a pretty boy to change the tire myself. So I take it to the mechanic. The mechanic changes the tire but does a substandard job.

Later that day while driving down the road, my car’s tire comes loose. While my cars crashes to the right, the tires rolls across the highway to the left. An incoming vehicle swerves to avoid the tire and crashes into another car injuring 4 people. Who does the law make responsible?

For the tort/civil injury, in almost any jurisdiction/country around the world, the mechanic is held liable. You are liable for your negligence and any subsequent injuries that are caused by your negligence. In criminal law, it would depend on how the jurisdiction defines and prosecutes unintentional homicides like manslaughter or negligent homicide.

But to make a long story short, a car mechanic would definitely be civilly liable in similar circumstances. Criminal prosecution is more of a political question depending on the extent of the injuries and public outcry.

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emilios on March 13, 2008  · 

somebody have to pay for that, that’s ovious.
The flying company wish to do not do it, and them claim that the insurance should do
Insurance company wish to do not do it and claim that somebody need to be the guilty one
who i sthe weaker (with less posibilities to defend himself) of the whole chain ??, the mechanics …

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Martin Varsavsky on March 13, 2008  · 

If you are right, then I wrote a bad post and I apologize!

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Eric on March 13, 2008  · 

So I have said that mechanics can be liable both civilly and criminally for this type of negligence. Nevertheless, I do think that there is something “political” going on in this case.

Normally in a civil suit for negligence or unlawful death, you’d sue Continental Airlines and not the mechanics under respondent superior liability (the company is liable for the acts of those in its employ). Also, the company has the money. How much money are you going to get from two mechanics to compensate for the suffering? Not much. That’s why you always go after those with deep pockets full of money: the companies.

In a criminal case, you can also prosecute the company as being responsible for its mechanics. Furthermore, what interest does the state have in seeing that these two mechanics, rather than the company itself, are criminally liable?

My guess is that the French love their Concorde and want some non-French faces to be held responsible for the deaths, not just of 113 people, but of the Concorde itself.

By the way, this is theoretically why popular juries exist: they protect criminal defendants by balancing the political interests of the prosecutor, the adjudicatory power of the judge, with what is considered “reasonable” by society at large.

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Haim Ac. on March 13, 2008  · 

The argument of Eric sound reasonable. In case of accident, the responsability falls into the mechanic shoulders.
The mechanic should get a liability insurance.
The insurance company should specify what is cover and what is not.
The mechanic will do the job as per the insurance company specifications.
The cost of all of this is passed to the customers.
A $20 job for a tire replacement, now becomes $50 (plus tax)
All should be happy now, except Eric who is paying for all of it


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Ignace / @micronauta on March 13, 2008  · 

Oh no! Your post is great! I just share that itchy feeling many fellow americans (you know, ecuatorians, peruvians, argentians and all the rest) get when we see US citizens call themselves americans, which they also are of course but you know what I mean.

Anyway, sorry for the off-topic. And to get back to the point: let’s hope that the incident you mention will not become a world trend, courtesy of the french.

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Eric on March 14, 2008  · 


Get over it! There is no term in the English language that is an alternative to “American”. “United Statesman” or “United Statesperson” or “United States of American” do not exist and even if they did, they would be simply too absurd. The country is called the United States of America even if in Spanish it is alway abbreviated as just Estado Unidos, and in the U.S. we often abbreviate it as America. Many Spanish speaker like to say “norteamericano”, but that term in English means something else — “of or pertaining to North American (AKA, Canada, USA, and Mexico).

The problem is that you wish to impose your direct and literal translation onto the English language. Languages don’t work that way. “Americano” is not “American”. The languages are just different!

By the way, in French, Italian, Arabic, Russian, Greek, etc a U.S. citizen is called an American also.

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Ignace / @micronauta on March 14, 2008  · 

Eric, Thank You for your clarification, but if the title just read “It seems that crazy lawsuits are not only a U.S. problem” then I would have said nothing at all.

So as you can see, there was an alternative. I wish to impose nothing, I only suggest. And my suggestion is that we stop imposing through language the misuse of the term “American”, because -just as you mention for the case of “North American”- it pertains to something else, and in Spanish and English it’s exactly the same. Perhaps you need to get over the idea that the Internet only exists in the US. This is the world, and in the world America is a very very large continent, which many of us inhabit. Get used to it.

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maresdelsur on March 15, 2008  · 

Actually Eric is quite right, in general legal theory. We should see how the principle is applied in the particular context. If the mechanics did not perform accordingly, and this is the real cause of the accident they may be well hold responsible (the company first, and then the mechanics). Car mechanics (if you can prove it of course) are under the same principle, at least in the jurisdiction I know (Argentina, Uruguay and likely many parts of Europe).

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