Barry Newman, partner in the law firm of Spohrer Dodd, has been admitted to practice law as a foreign advocate before the High Court of Kenya in Nairobi. Kenya Attorney General Githu Muigai approved Newman’s application to allow him to appear with Muthoga Caturu & Co. before the Kenyan courts on behalf of two United Kingdom residents who were injured in the crash of a sightseeing helicopter while visiting Kenya. Only lawyers admitted as advocates of the High Court of Kenya, have the right of audience before Kenyan courts.
“It is a tremendous honor to appear before the court in Kenya on behalf of my clients,” said Newman. “During our investigation, it became clear the operator had no ties to the United Kingdom or the United States so we would have to bring the case before the courts in Kenya. Typically, firms facing such extreme obstacles are reluctant to proceed. Our firm decided to undertake the effort to file suit in Kenya and I look forward to serving as lead advocate as we move forward with the case.”
The crash occurred in 2010 as Matthew Shelton and Elizabeth von Guttman were vacationing at a wildlife lodge about five hours from Nairobi. The lodge’s management convinced the couple to enjoy a three-hour helicopter tour of Kenya’s lakes, which are rich with waterfowl and exotic wildlife. The helicopter pilot took the couple over one of the lakes before landing for a picnic and pictures. During that time, the pilot warned them to stay away from the lake because of the danger posed by hippopotamuses and crocodiles. After lunch, they departed to Lake Logipi, which is known for its flamingo population. As the helicopter hovered over the lake, it began to tip and crashed, severely injuring the couple. Nearly 24 hours passed before any rescue was attempted or aid rendered, despite the fact the operator of the helicopter knew the whereabouts of their aircraft from GPS technology and were aware of the crash almost immediately.
“My clients were severely injured in this crash and had to not only deal with the pain from their injuries, but the fear of what was in the lake as they waited to be rescued,” said Newman. “Our only option to get results for our client was to file in the Kenyan courts where the accident occurred. I have been working closely with a Kenyan advocate for the last five years and I look forward to presenting to the Kenyan court in the next phase of the case.”
After more than five years of litigation, Newman and local Advocate Remigio Mugambi began the first phase of the trial in April of this year. The continuation of the trial has been scheduled for March of 2017. With this rare appointment, Newman can participate as lead trial advocate during the second phase. Newman is hopeful the court will find the pilot was solely responsible for the crash and appropriately compensate Shelton and von Guttman.