After a two-week trial, a Broward County jury returned a $100 million verdict in favor of a 31-year-old pilot whose plane crashed at North Perry airport on November 10, 2007. The jury found the air traffic controller 68% responsible and the pilot 32% responsible.
Todd S. Payne, J.D.'89, of Zebersky Payne, LLP and Hyram M. Montero, of Montero Law represented the pilot at trial. Payne is a pilot who brought additional expertise to the case.
Payne is a two-time University of Miami alumnus. During his undergraduate years, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Iron Arrow Honor Society. Payne has remained active with his alma mater and served as president of the Law Alumni Association and the Broward County Hurricane Club. He is also the past recipient of the Thomas Davison, III Memorial Service Award.
At Miami Law he is currently National Advisory Alumni Council for the Law Alumni Association Board of Directors Executive Committee and is a member of the law school's Momentum2 Committee. He also recently sponsored the Broward County Judicial Reception held this past March.
Payne is a founding member and administrative partner of Zebersky Payne, LLP. He represents corporate and individual clients in complex corporate and commercial/class action litigation as well as in transactional matters ranging from corporate formation to contract and lease negotiation and preparation. He also handles such areas as mass tort product liability, catastrophic injury and landlord/tenant disputes. In this tragic accident, the then 25-year-old pilot with approximately four hundred hours of flying time, was flying banners along the beach in a Piper Pawnee. He returned to the airport to drop off the banner at the designated northwest quadrant of the airport.
The air traffic controller gave the pilot an instruction to proceed downwind between two parallel runways to land on the right runway. During the attempted landing, the aircraft crashed as the pilot performed the aerial maneuvers required of the instruction. The pilot's case centered on the claim that the instruction was a non-standard landing instruction and not authorized by the FAA, which caused his plane to stall and crash.
The air traffic controller claimed that the plane crashed because the pilot did not fly it correctly and/or that it had mechanical problems.
The pilot survived but with a very serious traumatic brain injury and severe cognitive and neurological deficits. He is permanently disabled and needs constant assistance.
Payne is an FAA licensed pilot, a PADI certified scuba diver, and an SCCA licensed racecar driver.