First-of-its-Kind NASA Claim by Mica Nguyen of Cranfill Sumner LLP Seeks Space Debris Damage Recovery

On May 22, 2024, Mica Nguyen Worthy, Partner at Cranfill Sumner LLP, filed a claim with NASA to seek compensation for damages suffered by Alejandro Otero and his family due to a space debris incident. On March 8, 2024, space debris struck the Otero family home, causing significant damage while Daniel Otero was present. The debris, identified by NASA as part of its flight support equipment, punctured the roof and sub-flooring.

The Oteros hired Worthy to manage insurance and legal procedures and to file a formal claim against NASA. Damages include uninsured property loss, business interruption, emotional distress, and third-party assistance costs. Additionally, the Oteros’ homeowner’s insurer filed a concurrent claim for subrogated property damages.

Worthy highlighted the growing issue of space debris and its potential catastrophic impact, referencing the Kessler Effect. This case, she noted, exemplifies the real-world consequences of space debris reaching Earth’s surface, marking a significant legal precedent. Worthy emphasized her clients’ need for fair compensation, underscoring NASA’s responsibility under international law to compensate for damages caused by U.S. space objects.

As Chair of Cranfill Sumner LLP’s Aviation & Aerospace Practice Group, Worthy and her team prepared a Federal Tort Claims Act submission to NASA, asserting negligence on behalf of her clients. She urged NASA to uphold international standards of liability and set a precedent for responsible space operations.

Under the FTCA, NASA has six months to respond to the claims. Meanwhile, Worthy continues to collaborate with space law experts, advancing discussions on evolving legal frameworks in space law, particularly in light of recent space debris incidents in North Carolina.

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