Pilot Sues JetBlue Because They Let Him Fly

Filed Under: JetBlue

Some of you may remember the JetBlue captain, Clayton Osbon, who “lost it” on a flight from New York to Las Vegas three years ago. Via Reuters:

Osbon began running through the aisles, ranting about religion and terrorism and making comments such as “We’re not going to Vegas” and “You’d better start praying now!” Passengers subdued Osbon as another co-pilot landed the plane.

For those of you that don’t remember the incident, here’s a segment ABC did about it at the time:


Well that former captain is now suing JetBlue. For $14.9 million. Because he says they shouldn’t have let him fly.

He filed his lawsuit in Manhattan federal court yesterday, on the three year anniversary of the flight where he “lost it,” and just three days after a Germanwings pilot deliberately crashed a plane in the French Alps.

So why is Mr. Osbon suing?

In his lawsuit, Osbon said his conduct on the flight stemmed from a “complex partial brain seizure” that JetBlue should have caught before he boarded, after he had missed a preflight meeting and appeared disheveled, disoriented and slow.

“JetBlue failed to make any effort to ensure that Captain Osbon was fit to fly,” the complaint said. “Instead, JetBlue maintained a culture designed to protect the careers of crewmembers that were demonstrably impaired.”

Osbon said the episode subjected him to “national public embarrassment” in traditional and social media, and derailed his job prospects.

And how did he arrive at the $14.9 million amount which he’s suing for?

The lawsuit accuses JetBlue of negligence and breach of contract. It seeks $4.85 million of compensatory damages, $4.85 million of punitive damages, a combined $4.85 million for reputational damage and emotional distress, and other sums.


There’s no denying mental health is a serious issue which is at a minimum downplayed and at worst overlooked. And I’m confident that airlines will reconsider their policies when it comes to mental health going forward.

At the same time, I really don’t think all mental health issues can fully be treated in the context of determining whether people are “fit to fly” or not, and some people will always “slip through the cracks.”

All that being said, I find it disappointing that someone would ultimately try to “profit” off the situation in light of such a tragedy. Looking after mental health is a two way street. If the JetBlue pilot appeared to be “disheveled, disoriented, and slow,” shouldn’t he also have spoken up about how he was feeling? I think it’s unreasonable to completely shift blame on other parties here.

Bottom line

While Mr. Osbon does raise a legitimate point which I think the airlines will soon address, I still find it unfortunate that he’s trying to profit off of this situation. Surely he has to take some personal responsibility in all this.

Am I off base? Do you think the former JetBlue captain is intending to raise a serious issue, or trying to profit off a tragedy?

  1. Perhaps I’m more disgusted by this due to the timing in relation to the Germanwings tragedy or maybe its the amount he’s suing for. It seems excessive. I also am curious to hear from a doctor as to whether he’d be too impaired to be aware of the fact that he felt “off” and couldn’t tell someone that he didn’t think he should be flying. There is such a thing as personal accountability. And for that matter, I don’t think he can blame JetBlue for the embarrassment. He may as well sue anyone who recorded the incident on their cell phones for embarrassment too.

  2. Not surprised at all. In this country people sue anyone for anything. If you are alive you can be sued. Well, some will sue you even after you die. Love how things work here 🙂

  3. This is exactly what’s wrong with Amerika today…

    I pray the judge throws this one out. B6 shouldn’t even have to spend $1 in legal fees on something this ridiculous.

  4. Wow. I represent management in employment cases, so I’m used to seeing “interesting” lawsuits from employees. But this is beyond the beyond.

  5. @db: You are very much correct. I just hope their insurance carrier doesn’t settle with the pilot’s attorneys out-of-court to avoid a trial. Cheaper, but the whole idea of it in this case just rubs me the wrong way.

  6. Opportunistic. Obviously not suffering a “partial brain seizure” — whatever the hell that is; I think I have one several times a day 🙂 ) — when he filed this lawsuit. He seems to be able to read/watch the news and come to the conclusion that, yup, NOW’s the time to call his lawyer.
    Of course, this would open the floodgates for any passenger who ever flew on one of his flights to file their own lawsuit in his litigation-crazed country.

    Meantime, I sincerely offer him my condolences if he is actually suffering mental issues,

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