Confidential Settlement for Aviation Accident
A U.S. Air Force (USAF) Dash-8 aircraft crashed in West African after running out of fuel. Civilian contractor Marcos Rodriguez sustained severely disabling injuries as a result of the crash. Prior to the Dahs-8’s fateful flight, Mr. Rodriguez warned the pilots to buy additional plane fuel. However, those warnings were ultimately ignored.
Aviation accident attorneys from Spohrer Dodd and New Mexico attorney Jim Gilman agreed to represent Mr. Rodriguez and filed a claim against the USAF under the Military Claims Act on his behalf. Mr. Rodriguez also received proceeds for his injuries under the Defense Base Act (DBA) – a law that provides injured victims workers’ compensation-type benefits for injuries government contractors sustain abroad. Under the DBA, if Mr. Rodriguez subsequently received payments for his injuries from the at-fault party in connection with an obligation to pay him damages, he must reimburse the DBA insurer for his DBA proceeds from the subsequent damages payment.
Mr. Rodriguez’ MCA claim was denied on the basis that he already received compensation for his injuries under the DBA. Mr. Rodriguez appealed the MCA claim denial up the chain of command. USAF informed Mr. Rodriguez that they will not consider the MCA claim further without getting a full waiver from the DBA regarding its purported right to be reimbursed from the MCA claim.
Mr. Rodriguez filed a civil action for declaratory judgment in a federal court in New Mexico, asking the court to hold that the DBA insurer had no right to reimbursement from the MCA claim’s proceeds because it was not paid in connection with an obligation to pay damages. Instead, a payment under the MCA is strictly voluntary.
The federal court ruled in favor of Mr. Rodriguez, declaring that the DBA insurer had no right to reimbursement. Eventually, USAF agreed to pay Mr. Rodriguez under the MCA.