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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against City of Charlotte for Death of Airplane Stowaway

A lawsuit filed by the family of Delvonte Tisdale against the City of Charlotte was dismissed on Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed against the city of Charlotte by the family of a teenager who apparently fell to his death from the wheel well of a plane during its flight from Charlotte to Boston.

The North Mecklenburg High School sophomore left his Charlotte home sometime on Nov. 14, 2010. A day later, his mutilated body was found in a Boston suburb on Brierbrook Street. The body was so badly damaged that authorities were unable to identify the victim and an autopsy could not even determine the cause of death. The only clue investigators found on the victim’s body to help identify the body was a scribbled hall pass with Tisdale’s name on it. Investigators determined that Tisdale likely sneaked onto the tarmac of the Charlotte airport and climbed into the wheel well of a Boeing 737, US Airways Flight 1176, bound for Boston.

Tisdale’s family had sued the city of Charlotte, US Airways and Charlotte Douglas International Airport, claiming theirĀ negligenceĀ caused the death of their son. The lawsuit, filed in Mecklenburg Superior court last November, accused the defendants of not doing enough to prevent Tisdale from getting onto the airport’s tarmac and into the wheel well of the plane. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants negligently failed to ensure that children like Tisdale could not gain access to restricted areas, including the tarmac and airplanes and the defendants failed to warn Tisdale of the dangers associated with boarding a plane as a passenger in the wheel well. The lawsuit sought damages in excess of $10,000.

Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis ruled that no evidence suggested the city did anything wrong and that Tisdale himself was negligent by entering a secured area. Judge Lewis also ruled the City owes a duty of care to the general public but not those who seek to breach security. In a new release, Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann was quoted as saying, “While the City remains saddened by Mr. Tisdale’s death and sympathizes with his family, the Court’s ruling confirms our belief that the City should not be held legally liable for Mr. Tisdale’s decisions and actions”.

While the lawsuit was dismissed, the security breach has raised questions about the airport’s security. It led to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report that called the airport’s police force inadequate to monitor the nation’s 11th-busiest airport. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have taken over security at Charlotte-Douglas and have increased patrols since the incident.

It was reported that the Tisdale family was disappointed and disagreed with the dismissal but still have the right to appeal the Judge’s decision. The attorney for the Tisdale family, Chris Chestnut, was quoted as saying, “I just felt like it was premature. We filed this lawsuit to get answers, but we’ve never had them. They’re blaming Tisdale for his own death and no one knows how he got on the plane”.


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