Justice at Last for a Tenacious Air Force Plane Crash Survivor
After nearly 10 years of tenacious representation, our Phoenix client, Marcos Rodriguez, finally received justice. In 2009, Marcos was a 24-year-old aviation mechanic working as a military contractor in West Africa. He suffered paralyzing injuries after a U.S. Air Force Dash-8 aircraft crashed in the African desert, near Timbuktu due to fuel starvation. During the flight’s last stop in Mauritania, Marcos had warned the pilots to buy additional fuel, but they arrogantly ignored him.
Issues with the Military Claims Act and Defense Base Act
Spohrer & Dodd, along with New Mexico co-counsel, Jim Gilman, made a claim under the Military Claims Act (MCA). In narrow circumstances the MCA allows the military to pay restitution to victims of its negligence. They are rarely granted, and there are dozens of exclusions under its enabling regulations. If denied, it can only be administratively appealed to the same branch. Because the crash occurred overseas, the MCA is the only available claim, and no lawsuit can be filed if denied. Thus, any payment is strictly voluntary.
The claim was denied in 2012 because Marcos had received benefits under the Defense Base Act (DBA), which provides workers’ compensation-type insurance benefits to government contractors injured abroad. We appealed the MCA denial and, in 2013, the Air Force advised that any further consideration would be conditioned on a complete waiver of the DBA insurer’s claim for reimbursement. Under the DBA, Marcos must repay the DBA insurer for its paid benefits out of any proceeds later recovered from any other negligent party that is obligated to pay damages. After failing to convince the DBA insurer that it had no such rights because the military is never technically “obligated” to pay anything under the MCA, we had to file a Declaratory Judgment lawsuit against the DBA insurer in a New Mexico federal court. Though this was the first suit of its kind, our “not obligated” argument ultimately prevailed.
Surviving Aircraft Crashes and Legal Battles
For the next five years, Marcos continuously provided updated medical documentation and aggressively pursued the claim as it moved up the chain of command. By late 2018, the Secretary of the Air Force agreed to pay in principle, and financial negotiations began. By Christmas, an agreement was reached, and Marcos’ claim was paid in early 2019. Since the crash, Marcos has earned three college degrees, including his Masters in Graphic Information Technology. He is working for a nationally syndicated television show and is using the proceeds we recovered under the DBA and MCA to buy his first home.
Consult an Experienced Jacksonville Aviation Accident Attorney
Due to the devastating nature of aviation accidents, surviving one is nothing short of a miracle. Moreover, persevering in a fight to obtain compensation for your aviation accident injuries from the government is equally miraculous. If you or loved one sustained severe injuries as a result of an aviation accident, you should not have to fare against recovering both your health and monetary reparations for losses to which you are legally entitled. At Spohrer Dodd, our Jacksonville aviation accident attorneys are prepared to advocate for your rights. From the initiation of your claim to its ultimate resolution, we are committed to fighting for your interests.
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Call Spohrer Dodd at (904) 637-7721 or contact us online for a consultation regarding the merits of your injury claim.