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D'AQUILLA v. PRYOR

June 29, 1954

D'AQUILLA et al.
v.
PRYOR et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NOONAN

The above-entitled action was brought by and in behalf of certain victims of an accident which occurred when a rented airplane crashed in front of the home of the victims. The pilot and his passenger were killed in the crash, and their estates are named as defendants in the complaint together with the owner of the airplane, but there is no proof that the estates were ever served.

From all of the evidence, it seems clear that the deceased pilot, Brown, had rented the plane from the defendant Pryor on a simple rental basis, rather than as part of his student training. He was duly licensed as a pilot, and had even been 'checked out' for that plane by Pryor a few days before the accident. There is no real evidence to indicate that Brown rented the plane as a student and as part of his course of training.

 All of the evidence indicates that the plane was airworthy; it was certified by an authorized government inspector to be in compliance with all government safety regulations. That it might have had additional safety equipment is not material, since it was not required by government regulations.

 The law of this state does not impose any absolute liability on airplane owners, as it does on automobile owners by statute. There being no statutory change in the common law rule in this respect, the common law is still in effect in this state.

 The case of Munch and Romeo v. Caton, 1937 U.S. Aviation Reports 57, 96 N.Y.L.J. 876, holding that the New York law imposing 'absolute liability' on owners of motor vehicles does not apply to airplanes, nor is there any other New York law that does, contains the following statement:

 
'Consequently, the common law governs, by which it was well settled in this state that the owner of a vehicle could not be held liable for the negligence of its operator, unless at the time it was being used in the owner's business by the operator within the scope of his employment.'

 There is no evidence that the Connecticut common law differs from the New York common law in this respect, and there is apparently no 'absolute liability' statute in Connecticut, which would apply to airplanes. The Uniform Aeronautics Act has not been adopted by either New York or Connecticut.

 Certainly defendant, Pryor, was not negligent in renting an airworthy ship to a duly licensed pilot.

 Regardless of whether or not it might be beneficial to the people of the states of Connecticut and/or New York, the law in neither of these states classifies aviation as an ultra-hazardous activity.

 It cannot be held that the owner of the plane is liable for the negligence of an independent pilot. Certainly the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur cannot be applied against defendant, Pryor.

 In view of all of the above, this court concludes that there is no liability on the part of defendant, Pryor. Since the other defendants were never brought within the jurisdiction of this court, it would be academic to dismiss the question of their possible liability. Certainly, no proof of any such liability was adduced at the trial.

 The court, accordingly, makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

 Findings of Fact

 1. On September 18, 1948, and at all times subsequent thereto all the plaintiffs were residents of ...


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