Attorneys Bob Spohrer and Galen Bauer recently concluded a pre-suit settlement on behalf of a Gulfcoast businessman injured in the crash of a chartered Citation. The aircraft encountered a line of thunderstorms while flying over the Midwest. Rather than divert to an appropriate airport, the crew canceled their IFR flight plan and attempted a dangerous landing at an uncontrolled airfield. The pilots landed downwind on a wet runway that was far too short to accommodate the turbine aircraft.
After touching down the crew deployed thrust reversers in an unsuccessful effort to slow the aircraft and then attempted to go around – in violation of the pilot operating handbook. When the plane overshot the runway striking an embankment, the crew members were killed and the two passengers were seriously injured. Our client suffered significant orthopedic and neurological injuries. Post-crash investigation revealed that the flying pilot had been taking medications that impair judgment and decision-making.
In pre-suit settlement conferences, the legal challenge was overcoming the one-million-dollar cap on non-economic damages which the defense argued should apply. According to Bob Spohrer: “We were able to successfully make a choice of laws analysis which would avoid the very unfair cap on damages and at the same time advance a significant claim for the client’s business losses. The carrier for the charter operator made a realistic evaluation of their exposure and a settlement in excess of ten million dollars, present value, was reached on the second day of negotiations.”
The hard work of our aviation lawyers over the years has contributed to the safety of air travel by exposing and removing hazards and unsafe practices. Our success has also resulted in multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients.One example of that is the Rhodes, et al. v. United Technologies, Inc. case that involved the crash of a Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopter on landing at Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Germany. The firm’s aircraft accident investigation disclosed an unrecognized design defect that led to a $22.9 million jury verdict on behalf of injured and deceased Army personnel and their families.
This verdict was upheld on appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court.