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Wed, Dec 14, 2005

Lawsuit Lottery Continues: Firm Files $100M Suit Over Venezuelan MD-82 Crash

Suits Against West Caribbean Airways, Continental Airlines, Boeing Co., and Others in Connection with August 2005 Venezuelan Crash

Yet another law firm, calling itself, "one of the largest aviation litigation firms in the US," Motley Rice, LLC; has joined with co-counsel Edward Montoya of Coral Gables, Fla., and announced that they have filed a $100,000,000 suit against Colombian-based West Caribbean Airways and its principals, as well as US-based Boeing Company, and several engine parts manufacturers on behalf of the family of Gustavo Perez, a victim of the crash of West Caribbean Airways Flight 708, which took place on August 16, 2005 (less than 4 months ago) in a mountainous region in northwest Venezuela.

Once again, this is LONG before all the facts can be gathered in this tragedy and certainly even longer before a possible cause may be offered by the investigating authorities. And yes, ANN has some questions about this manner of litigation and certainly (as we did with the previous story on the matter about the lawyers speculating on last week's SWA crash) with some of statements and conclusions reached... LONG before responsible authorities would even think to offer a conclusion of their own... which would be based on weeks, months and thousands of man-hours of professional investigative effort. What is it that the world's aviation lawyers know that we (the aviation industry and investigating authorities), don't? 

A few other questions...

  • Are the lawyer(s) in question confusing the published reports of a "dual flame-out" with their statement that "both engines (were) in flames"?
  • And -- it appears that former DOT IG "Scary Mary" Schiavo, who has taken a number of myopic (IOO) potshots at the aviation business over the years, is both quoted in the accompanying statement, and is also listed on the roster of attorneys with this firm... so we have to ask what her involvement is with this particular suit, as well...
  • An attorney quoted below seems to pontificate that older aircraft should be retired and not sold, and specifically says that he hopes to put a stop to such activity -- does he mean to forbid such sales even if these so-called older aircraft meet all applicable airworthiness regs?  
  • Finally, isn't simply a situation in which these firms seem inclined to "sue first and ask questions later?"

Herewith, an applicable portion (in italics) of a recent press statement furnished by the firm of Motley Rice, LLC, for your perusal and comment...

The plane, a McDonnell Douglas MD-82, was en route from Panama City, Panama to Fort de France, Martinique at the time of the crash. According to Venezuelan air traffic control, the pilots reported trouble with both engines. After a 7,000 feet per minute dive, with both engines in flames, the plane crashed into a field in the western state of Zulia, Venezuela. All 160 crew and passengers were killed. The death toll of the crash makes it one of the deadliest of 2005, worldwide and the second worst crash ever involving an MD-80. West Caribbean Airways Flight 708 is the 20th loss of an MD-80, since the aircraft was brought into service in 1980 and the deadliest air disaster in the history of Venezuela.

West Caribbean Airways had recently leased the aircraft from MK Aviation, Inc., a closely held Panamanian company and another party to the suit. MK purchased the aircraft from Continental Airlines, who had originally acquired the aircraft in 1986 and operated it until it was transferred to MK. Just weeks prior to the accident, the jet's tail cone fell off and was replaced.

"It is a travesty that this plane was even permitted to take off," stated Motley Rice attorney and former U.S. Inspector General for the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., Mary Schiavo.

"By the time this plane with JT8D engines was transferred to West Caribbean, it was what those in the aviation business call 'tired iron', thus making it an accident waiting to happen. With this litigation, we intend to not only hold the appropriate parties responsible, but also to ensure that airlines and manufacturers worldwide institute stricter safety regulations on their planes and parts."

"U.S. airlines should be retiring their old aircraft, not selling them on the world market," said Motley Rice attorney J.B. Harris. "By keeping them in circulation, many innocent people are being subjected to dangerous travel. We hope to help put a stop to this."

This case was filed in Circuit Court in Miami-Dade County, Florida and included the following defendants: West Caribbean Airways, The Boeing Company, Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies Corporation, Honeywell International, General Electric Co., Wilmington Trust Corp., Continental Airlines, MK Aviation, Financial Telecom Ltd., and several individuals.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov, http://aviation.motleyrice.com

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