Security And Premises Liability Tested In Airport Tragedy

A 16-year-old North Carolina teen ran away from home in November of 2010. The next day, his body was found in a suburb of Boston. The boy apparently made his way to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of a plane that was bound for Boston the next day. The boy died and the severity of his injuries made it impossible to determine what actually caused his death. His family is now bringing a legal action against the city of Charlotte, the airport, and US Airways for negligence in allowing the young man to make his way onto the tarmac and into the wheel well of a Boeing 737.

An attorney for the city says neither the city, nor the airport is responsible. Despite that claim, the incident did inspire Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to conduct a security review. That review concluded that airport police were not sufficiently staffed to monitor the airport properly. The family of the teen wonders how a 16-year-old boy could gain access to a plane and make his way into the wheel well without anyone noticing or stopping him.

Inadequate security is a form of premises liability. While these cases often involve apartment buildings, malls, hotels, restaurants, bars, and other areas where visitors may be attacked, the basic idea is that a property owner is responsible for maintaining reasonably safe conditions on his or her property. In this case, it may be that the airport failed to do so.

Source:, “NC family of teen who fell to death in Mass. sues,” 15 November 2012