Stone v. Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines is a low-cost national carrier based in Denver, Colorado. Brett Stone suffered a cardiac arrest, in mid-sentence, while talking with his wife on a Frontier flight from Boston to San Francisco on July 27, 2000. Frontier followed its standard procedure, encouraging medical professionals to come forward and diverting the course of the plane to the nearest airport, Denver. Both a doctor and an EMT came forward. Both requested an AED because they had heard that airlines were carrying such equipment. Brett Stone died for lack of effective treatment. He was a 28 year old investment banker and a former NCAA champion swimmer.

His widow, Christy Stone, engaged attorney Weinberg, then at Robinson Donovan, to file a wrongful death action in U.S. District Court in Boston seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Frontier for failing to have an automatic external defibrillator (AED) on board to resuscitate Brett Stone.

Preparation for trial encompassed extensive motion practice on a variety of issues. The parties engaged economics, industry, and medical experts from across the country and around the world. After a year of pretrial proceedings, in Winter 2002/03, Frontier brought trial counsel from Honolulu into the case. As in the Somes case, Frontier raised the preemption defense, which was extensively briefed and rejected by Chief Judge William Young in a lengthy opinion featured on the cover of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly in May, 2003. Frontier also filed a motion for summary judgment to knock Stone's punitive damages claim out of the case. Stone prevailed on this issue. A copy of Stone's brief opposing the motion for summary judgment can be found by clicking here.

Shortly before trial was scheduled to begin, the Stone case was settled at a last-minute meeting in May, 2003, attended by Frontier's president and the insurer's vice president.

In the Spring of 2001, the FAA belatedly issued a regulation requiring most domestic passenger planes to carry AEDs and train crew members in their use by 2004.