Gainesville law firm takes on unusual case
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 5:20 p.m.
The Chestnut Firm in Gainesville, led by founding attorney Christopher Chestnut, has been retained by the family of a North Carolina teen who hid in the wheel well of a commercial airplane and fell to his death over a Boston suburb last November.
The mangled body of Delvonte Tisdale, 16, was discovered in a residential subdivision in Milton, Mass. Initially believed to have been murdered, Tisdale actually was a stowaway on a US Airways flight from Charlotte bound for Boston.
With the airline, Transportation Security Administration and Charlotte Douglas International Airport still investigating, the law firm said the teen’s family believes proper security protocol was not followed.
"There are rules that are implemented by government agencies to protect us, both on the road and in the airport. When those rules are broken and someone is hurt, consequently, it’s important we hold someone accountable for it," Chestnut said in an interview.
Officials from the TSA and the city of Charlotte, which operates the airport, declined comment. Efforts to reach the airline were unsuccesful.
A civil litigation attorney who started his own law firm at age 26, Chestnut is known around the greater Gainesville area for his active involvement in civic and community issues. Tisdale’s family first approached the four-attorney firm with an interest in pursuing a case.
While a lawsuit has not yet been filed, Chestnut said he plans to file one "soon." His intentions were announced in a widely disseminated press release that, while acknowledging the teen’s "irresponsible and immature decisions," pointed a finger at faulty airport security.
"Had airport security been up to par, [Tisdale] would be alive and well with his family today," the statement read.
The attorney said Tisdale was a well-adjusted teen active in Junior ROTC who had healthy relationships with his siblings. His father lives in Charlotte, while his mother lives in Baltimore, one possible reason news reports had raised to explain the teen’s desire to hitch a ride north.
"From the evidence, he had nothing to run away from...and nothing to run to in Boston," Chestnut said.
The attorney declined to outline the specific claims he plans to pursue against the agencies, but said he feels compensatory damages for the family’s pain and suffering is appropriate.
"Part of the hypocrisy of this is that post 9/11, we, the passengers on airlines, have stepped up and subjected ourselves to a high level of scrutiny. But the airlines owe us a duty of that same level of security," he said.
The attorney added that part of the family’s concern is the "lack of urgency" demonstrated by the agencies in getting to the bottom of the investigation. Two months later, the family still has no answers as to how Tisdale managed to climb into the undercarriage of the plane until, on the plane’s approach into Boston, he fell out.
"The goal is twofold," Chestnut said of a lawsuit. "One, to get answers and two, to improve security. I think this is the most proficient way."
Contact Suevon Lee at 867-4065 or email@example.com.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.