Aerospatiale Helicopter Corp. v. Universal Health Services, Inc

In Aerospatiale Helicopter Corp. v. Universal Health Services, Inc., 778 S.W.2d 492 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1989, writ denied), the pilot took off while the cowling for one of the engines was open. During flight, the cowling separated from the aircraft, snagged a fuel line, and cut off fuel to that engine. Id. at 495. The helicopter was designed to fly with only one engine, and it automatically shifted the power requirements to the second engine. Id. at 496. The instruments in the cockpit reflected that one engine was off line and the second engine was running at higher than normal torque and temperature. The pilot then shut off the fuel to the second engine. The helicopter crashed, killing everyone on board. Id. Aerospatiale, the helicopter manufacturer, asserted the cowling separation, as a matter of law, was not a proximate cause or producing cause of the crash. Id. at 496. The Court agreed with Aerospatiale. Id. at 497. In explaining why there was no proximate causation, we relied on authority stating: "In applying the test of foreseeability to situations where a negligently created pre-existing condition combines with a later act of negligence causing an injury, there is a distinction between a situation in which one has created a dangerous condition and a later actor observes, or by the circumstances should have observed, the existence of the dangerous condition and a situation in which the dangerous condition is not apparent and cannot be observed by the actor. In regard to the first situation, the intervening act interrupts the natural sequence of the events and cuts off the legal effect of the negligence of the initial actor. This is based upon the premise that it is not reasonable to foresee or expect that one who actually becomes cognizant of a dangerous condition in ample time to avert the injury will fail to do so." Id. at 497. The Court observed that all the testimony showed that if the pilot had followed the proper procedures, the accident would not have occurred. The pilot failed to follow the operator's manual's procedures for isolating a defective engine, and he had to take extraordinary steps to shut off the fuel supply to the second engine, including breaking a wire. We concluded, "the pilot's actions in this regard were not foreseeable by Aerospatiale." Id.