Aviation Litigation Case Study

Bob has experience as the lead trial lawyer in cases involving the interests of families whose loved ones were lost as well as businesses who repair airplane engines.  The case study we have selected was filed in the South Carolina federal court (Beaufort Division) in 2010 and was set to be tried before a jury in Charleston in October 2013.

A New York-based aircraft engine repair facility was sued in federal court for the improper servicing of a Continental TSIO-550c following the 2010 crash landing of a Lancair IV-P high performance single engine airplane. The undisputed evidence was that the Lancair’s Hartzell propeller was lost at sea and following engine failure, the pilot bypassed Hilton Head airport and after conducting a number of clearing turns landed on the beach at Hilton Head Island.  It was also uncontested that the pilot had enough altitude, airspeed and sufficient aircraft control to land at the airport.   Killed was a 38-year old father of 2 and husband who was jogging on the beach and who was employed as a highly compensated pharmaceutical salesman.

The LoweFirm® was called upon to represent the interests of a 60+ year old family owned aircraft engine repair business that was started after World War II by the current CEO’s grandfather.  The firm’s client has and continues to enjoy a stellar reputation across the country.

Experts retained by the LoweFirm® not only concluded that the loss of the propeller and engine failure were the result of the pilot/mechanic’s improper installation of an o-ring on the propeller flange in 2008 while he attached the propeller but also that the pilot breached the standard of care by  not landing at the airport.  The engine manufacturer’s experts concluded, as we did, that the pilot’s faulty installation of the o-ring caused an overload crack in the propeller flange upon tightening.  The decedent’s family’s experts opined that the crack was caused during a 1996 engine test cell failure at the factory and that our client should have discovered the crack in 2002.

The highly contested case with California-based lawyers and the “normal traveling trio” of experts who are well known in aviation circles, took place over a 3-year period, and involved the depositions of 36 witnesses across the country, most of which were video-taped.  Five engine inspections with a panoply of tests were undertaken in Florida, Texas and California.  Experts were located in Florida, Ohio, Texas, Colorado and California.  Over 90 motions were heard a the week before trial.

Despite plaintiff’s $52 million demand with court-ordered mediation in 2012 resulting in a reduced demand in the low 8-figures, the case settled just before trial for an amount in the very low 6-figures representing only a fraction of our client’s insurance coverage.