Widmyer v. Southeast Skyways, Inc.
584 P.2d 1 (Alaska 1978)

  • A Southeast plane was flying in rough weather and crashed. Widmyer sued for negligence
    • Widmyer had an accident reconstruction expert testify that the crash was due to pilot error.
    • Southeast argued that the crash was due to the weather and it wasn’t the pilot’s fault.
  • The Trial Court found for Southeast. Widmyer appealed.
    • Widmyer had asked the judge to instruct the jury that they could find Southeast liable for negligence if it was “more probable than not” that they were negligent.
      • Aka, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
    • The judge did not instruct the jury to this standard.
      • The jury was instructed that the mere fact there was an accident did not automatically mean that Southeast was negligent. Instead, there needed to be some evidence of something that Southeast did wrong.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that the case met the three demands of res ipsa loquitur:
      • Airplane typically do not crash without negligence.
      • Southeast was in control of the aircraft.
      • The plaintiffs did not contribute to the accident.
    • Therefore, the jury should have been instructed that they could infer negligence based on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.