Torts I

Heath v. Swift Wings, Inc.

Court of Appeals of North Carolina, 1979

Facts:

Heath, his wife and son, and Smathers died when a plane piloted by Heath crashed. Heath inspected the plane before takeoff and it ran fine, besides taking a bit longer than usual to take off and gain altitude. Testimony stated that Heath should have used the flaps in takeoff and that a reasonably prudent pilot would have immediately landed if he had trouble gaining altitude, which would have led to all surviving.

Procedural History:

Jury found for the defendant when instructed to base it off what a "ordinary prudent pilot having the same training and experience as Fred Heath, would have used in the same circumstances."

Issue:

What is the standard of care for a pilot?

Rule:

A professional is held to the objective minimum standard of care applicable to all of that profession.

Reasoning:

A reasonable person standard should be objective. One's training or lack thereof does not lower the minimum requirements.

Holding:

A pilot is held to the objective minimum standard of care applicable to all pilots.

Takeaway:

A professional is held to the objective minimum standard of care applicable to all of that profession.

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