There is a great movie that came out a few years ago called “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman and Nadine Velazquez. In the movie, Washington plays a pilot named Whip Whitaker who lands a malfunctioning airplane, saving most of his passengers’ lives. At first, he is seen as a hero for doing what no other pilot in the world would have been able to do, which is roll his commercial airliner and fly inverted, thus slowing it down enough to soften the impact upon crashing. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the media, the entire country put him on a pedestal…that is until FAA open an investigation into the accident.
In the very beginning of the film, you see Whitaker engaging in “risky” activity with a flight attendant; alcohol, cocaine, etc. It turns out he is a highly functioning addict. It is no secret to his crew what he does on his off time. The day of the crash Whitaker boards the airplane after “partying” all night. His new co-pilot is less than thrilled to see the condition he’s in and is a little nervous to say the least. The plane takes off amidst turbulence, but then it is a smooth ride. With the co-pilot at the wheel, Whitaker takes a nap. All of a sudden, there is a loud bang and both pilots realize they have lost control of the airliner. Whitaker springs into action instructs the flight attendants as to what to do and proceeds to land the airplane like no other pilot can. In total, less than 10 people die in the crash, including one crew member – the flight attendant with whom he spent the night.
So, who is at fault for the accident and the wrongful death of the passengers and crew member? Is it the airline because the aircraft had malfunctioning parts, or is it Whitaker who was flying while intoxicated? The rest of the movie deals with that question. Whitaker spends a great deal of time tracking down the remaining crew members to persuade them to testify in his favor. All agree even the co-pilot who suffers severe leg damage and possibly would never walk again.
As the investigation intensifies, the FAA notices a mini bottle of liquor missing from the inventory of the downed airplane. It would be easier to blame it on the deceased flight attendant, and Whitaker is instructed to do so — unofficially — or face jail time for telling the truth.
A wrongful death suit is inevitable, but should he (no pun intended) go down with the airplane?
It’s a question that plagues his conscience the entire movie right up until the very end. The end is, to say the least, a bit shocking, but not surprising. The movie implies that the family members of the deceased receive a wrongful death settlement. As for Whitaker’s decision — watch the movie and find out. It is a perfect example of what constitutes a wrongful death scenario, and the process of filing and receiving compensation.