Washington Supreme Court Decision
Defective Carburetor Accident, Verdict, and
Washington Supreme Court Decision
In February 2013, following a 3-week trial, a Washington jury returned a verdict for $8.9 million in favor of our client against an aircraft engine manufacturer. The decedent was a well-known surgeon who died in an aircraft accident. Our experts determined that the accident was caused by a defective engine carburetor that led to an engine failure.
After Aviation Law Group obtained the liability determination, the combined claims resulted in one of the top 100 jury verdicts of 2013. But the case did not end there; after settling will all parties then in the case, ALG appealed an earlier court dismissal of a part manufacturer.
While the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed (3-0), ALG convinced the Washington Supreme Court that the Court of Appeals was wrong. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals (9-0) and remanded the case back to the trial court. During the second week of trial, the case settled. The reported decision changed the landscape in aviation case law in Washington by limiting the breadth and application of federal preemption in aircraft product liability cases.
Experimental Aircraft Accident
Regional Fly-In Accident
After a 3-week jury trial, Robert Hedrick obtained a $10.5 million verdict against a regional fly-in host and its national counterpart. The case involved failure to arrange for adequate fire and emergency response at the event, which caused a pilot to die needlessly.
Though later reversed by the court of appeals, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to consider the erroneous appellate decision, the judgment sent a strong safety message to the air-show and fly-in industry, causing improvements in aviation event emergency services. We believe the change has already saved numerous lives.
Aircraft Servicing Liability
Airplane Mis-fueling Accident
A lineman working for local aircraft fueling operation pumped Jet-A aircraft fuel into the tanks of a reciprocating single-engine airplane, which required 100 octane low lead fuel. The plane lost engine power shortly after takeoff once the Jet fuel reached the engine, which caused the plane to crash, killing the pilot.
While the lineman’s mistake seemed obvious, the failures were not limited to his action. We were able to trace a litany of failures in training, safety, inspection, and oversight, from the fueler to his employer to the airport operator to the regional supplier, and ultimately to a major national gas company. We amended our complaint to include these parties and sought punitive damages. The case settled favorably right before trial.
Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 Accident In Amsterdam
From 2009 to 2011, we represented families of two U.S. passengers who died on Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, which crashed on February 26, 2009, while on approach to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Complex issues involving the Montreal Convention and proper jurisdiction arose. We successfully resolved the claims in favor of our clients.
Helicopter Firefighting Accident
Aviation Law Group represented the estate of a forest firefighter pilot who died in a helicopter accident while fighting fires in Northern California. The suit was filed in California against the United States for failure to take proper and adequate safety precautions. The case settled after we established fault during the discovery phase of litigation.
Regional Fly-In Accident
After a 3-week jury trial, Robert Hedrick obtained a $10.5 million verdict against a regional fly-in host and its national counterpart. The case involved failure to arrange for adequate fire and emergency response at the event, which caused a pilot to die needlessly. Though later reversed by the court of appeals, and the Washington Supreme Court refused to consider the erroneous appellate decision, the judgment sent a strong safety message to the air-show and fly-in industry, causing improvements in aviation event emergency services. We believe the change has already saved numerous lives.
Alaska Airlines Flight 261 Accident
On January 31, 2000, Alaska Airlines Flight 261, flying from Puerto Villarta, Mexico to Seattle via San Francisco, crashed into the Pacific Ocean northwest of Los Angeles. Firm members represented the families and estates of numerous passengers. After Alaska agreed not to contest liability, and after the trial court determined that maritime law applied (which was most favorable to our clients), we obtained a very favorable settlement for our clients.
Defective Helicopter Crash
Members prevailed on a case involving a product liability claim against a helicopter manufacturer before trial. In that wrongful death case, we filed a motion for summary judgment, where we proved that the tail rotor on the new helicopter should not have contacted the tail in flight, which caused the helicopter to crash. The trial judge agreed and held that this was a design defect in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations. As a result, the manufacturer was negligent as a matter of law. The defendant settled shortly after on terms very favorable to our client.
Canadian Seaplane Accident
In November 2009 a scheduled seaplane flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Canadian waters, killing 6 passengers. Aviation Law Group represented families of two U.S. passengers. Even though the accident occurred in Canada on a Canadian flight, we filed suit in the U.S., claiming multiple legal theories and jurisdiction here. Shortly after filing the lawsuit, the two claims settled.
Airplane Design Defect
Mis-rigging of the flight controls caused an aircraft accident. At trial, the jury agreed with our aviation experts that the system was defectively designed, and that defect contributed to the accident that took the lives of the pilot and passenger. As a result, appropriate safety changes are anticipated, including design changes that will make the aircraft safer.
Defective Main Rotor Drive
Due to our location in the Pacific Northwest, we have experience in helicopter logging accidents. In one case, two pilots were flying a large helicopter over mountainous wooded terrain in northern California performing helicopter logging operations. The helicopter crashed, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other. Even though the NTSB was unable to determine any mechanical failure, our investigation and team of aviation experts determined that two separate defects, that were causally linked, had caused the accident. The lawsuit against the numerous defendants was settled shortly before trial.
Uncontained Engine Failure
In another case, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, a helicopter had an uncontained turbine engine failure while transporting timber. The helicopter crashed into a heavily wooded area, seriously injuring the pilot. Our aviation experts, including a metallurgist, determined that a turbine wheel failed due to improper balancing technique
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an aviation-related accident, please reach out to us. We are always willing to provide a free initial evaluation and meeting.
Aviation Law Group, PS City Centre Building 1420 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3300, Seattle, WA 98101
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If you or a loved one has been the victim of an aviation-related accident, please reach out to us.