An amateur pilot owns a small airplane,
which he houses at a privately owned airport. The control tower at the airport
is staffed by air traffic controllers. These are airport employees who manage
the flow of traffic and communicate with the pilots to ensure safety. One day, as
the pilot is landing his plane at the airport, he sees a service truck moving
onto the runway directly in front of him. The pilot suddenly banks hard, to
avoid colliding with the truck. Almost immediately, the pilot loses control of
the aircraft and crashes into the side of a maintenance hangar owned and
operated by the airport. The pilot is not injured, but his airplane is damaged
beyond repair. The maintenance hangar is also damaged, as is some valuable
equipment inside. Due to the accident, the airport is forced to close for two
days, causing it to lose revenue.
The air traffic controller who was on
duty when the crash occurred claims that the pilot did not follow instructions
during the landing, while the pilot claims that the controller caused the
accident by giving faulty instructions. A witness has stated that the pilot was
slumped over the controls just before the plane collided with the hangar,
appearing to be unconscious.
The pilot files suit against the airport
in the appropriate United States District Court, seeking compensation for the
damage to his plane. The airport counterclaims against the pilot, seeking to
recover for both the property damage and the revenue it lost being closed for
two days. Assume that the court has jurisdiction.
During discovery, the airport asks the
pilot to submit to a physical examination. The pilot refuses. The airport also
serves the pilot with interrogatories. One interrogatory reads as follows:
“Identify and describe all automobile accidents or automobile traffic
violations in which you have been involved in the past twenty years.” The pilot
objects to the interrogatory, stating that it is unduly burdensome and seeks
information that is not relevant to the case. (Assume that it is common
knowledge that driving habits and medical conditions may persist over long
The pilot, meanwhile, learns that the
airport has hired a trial consultant who is an expert on runway accidents. Although
other experts are available, the airport’s expert is generally acknowledged to
be the world’s leading authority in this field. The pilot subpoenas the expert
for a deposition. The airport responds that the pilot is not entitled to take
the deposition because the expert will not testify at trial. The pilot also
asks the airport to produce all documents relating to its landing procedures
and protocols in effect at the time of the accident. The airport concedes that
these documents are relevant, but it refuses to produce them, arguing that revealing
these documents could compromise airport security.
The airport has filed four motions. The
first is a motion to compel the pilot to submit to a physical examination. The second
is a motion to compel the pilot to answer the interrogatory about his driving
record. The third is a motion to quash the subpoena of the airport’s expert. The
fourth is a motion for a protective order against producing the requested
- How should the court rule on the airport’s motion to compel physical examination? Explain.
- How should the court rule on the airport’s motion to compel a response to the interrogatory? Explain.
- How should the court rule on the pilot’s motion to quash the subpoena? Explain.
- How should the court rule on the airport’s motion for a protective order? Explain.