JetBlue Pilot Who Caused Flight Diversion Sues Airline

A JetBlue Airways Corp. pilot whose erratic behavior forced the diversion of a flight from New York to Las Vegas in 2012 sued the airline for $14.9 million, claiming it shouldn’t have allowed him to fly.

Clayton Osbon, 52, filed his suit three days after the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, which has raised concerns about pilots’ mentally stability. Authorities said they believe Flight 9525’s co-pilot intentionally steered the Airbus A320 into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 passengers and crew.

Osbon claims in his complaint that a “complex partial brain seizure” caused him to run down the plane’s aisle, screaming about religion and terrorist attacks before he was restrained by passengers. He said JetBlue’s failure to ground him before the flight caused him public embarrassment and the loss of his career and reputation.

“JetBlue failed to make any effort to ensure that Captain Osbon was fit to fly despite clear evidence and warning signs that he required immediate medical attention,” according to a complaint filed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

Osbon was found not guilty by reason of insanity of a charge of interfering with a flight crew. A psychologist said he suffered from a “severe mental disease or defect” at the time of the flight.

‘Heroic Actions’

“We stand behind the heroic actions of the crew, who followed well-established safety and security procedures both before and during the flight,” said Morgan Johnston, a spokesman for New York-based JetBlue.

Osbon said that because of the seizure, he missed a preflight crew meeting, failed to answer his mobile phone and arrived for work disoriented and disheveled.

“Captain Osbon’s uniform, appearance and demeanor clearly demonstrated that something was wrong and that he was not fit to fly,” according to the complaint.

Osbon claimed JetBlue violated his employment contract and was negligent in failing to ensure he was fit for duty before Flight 191, from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The flight was diverted to Amarillo, Texas.

JetBlue’s failure to land the plane sooner “unnecessarily endangered the lives of Captain Osbon, the crew and the 135 passengers,” he said.

Osbon said in the complaint that he was unaware before the flight that he had brain damage from a childhood injury.

The seizure “severely impaired his ability to perform basic activities, caused him to hallucinate and caused extreme feelings of paranoia and religious fervor,” he said.

The case is Osbon v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 15-cv-02306, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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