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$115M awarded for Afghanistan plane crash

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN

Law Bulletin Staff Writer

A Cook County jury last Thursday night awarded a $115.75 million verdict to the families of three flight crew members who were killed when the cargo plane crashed at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The plaintiffs filed wrongful death complaints against National Air Cargo Inc. and affiliated company
National Airlines after a Boeing 747-400 it operated crashed, killing all seven crew members aboard.

The plaintiffs alleged National Air was responsible for the April 29, 2013, crash, which was captured on a dashboard video that went viral. The plane was carrying five armored vehicles. They alleged Boeing manuals showed the plane could only haul one of the five vehicles at most and that the vehicles were not tied down with the required number of straps.

Following a 13-day trial, at about 9 p.m. Thursday, a jury awarded $47.25 million to the estate of flight captain Brad Hasler, which had originally been a $54 million verdict but was reduced due to contributory negligence attributed to him.

The estate of first officer Jamie L. Brokaw was awarded $43 million and $25.5 million was awarded to the estate of Jeremy P. Lipka, an off-duty pilot who was in the cockpit. They were all from Michigan.

“The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Donald J. Nolan of Nolan Law Group in a news release. Nolan and his colleague Thomas P. Routh represented the estates of Brokaw and Lipka.

Hasler’s estate was represented by David Katzman and Bruce Lampert of Katzman Lampert & McClune in Troy, Mich. “We’re very pleased with the result,” Katzman said.

The crash happened after a Boeing 747-400 converted freighter was loaded with five mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles owned by the Marine Corps at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and headed to Bagram en route to Dubai World Airport where the vehicles were set to be loaded onto a ship. They eventually were set to be transported to Yermo, Calif.

Shortly after the plane took off from the Bagram, where it had stopped to refuel, it stalled, took a sharp dive toward the ground, crashed and exploded.

The plaintiffs alleged at least one of the 18-ton vehicles broke away from its restraints, pushing a smaller vehicle through the back bulkhead of the plane and cutting two hydraulic system lines and causing other extensive damage.

According to information from the Nolan Law Group, two “black box” recorders were damaged when the vehicles shifted.

Information from the boxes showed they stopped recording when the plane was 33 feet above ground, at which time the plaintiffs alleged the plane nosed up and entered an aerodynamic stall before it fell to the ground.

According to the release from Nolan Law Group, the U.S. Department of Defense had a multimodal contract with National Airlines to move military equipment from Afghanistan to the United States. National Airlines had a joint venture with National Air Cargo Inc., based in New York, and National Air Cargo Middle East FZE in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to perform the work under the contract.

Of the five armored vehicles loaded on the plane, two of them weighted 12 tons and three were 18 tons. The plaintiffs argued the Boeing plane manual and the manual from Telair International, which was the manufacturer of the cargo handling system used to tie the vehicles down, showed that no more than one of the 12-ton vehicles could be safely transported on the plane.

They further alleged there were not nearly enough straps used to tie down the vehicles and that the straps that were used were in poor condition.

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on counts of wrongful death and predeath damages. The verdict amounts included $5 million each “for the shock and fright each of the men experienced from the time of takeoff until the time of the airplane’s impact with the ground,” the Nolan firm’s release states.

The suit was filed in Cook County because The Boeing Co. was originally named as a defendant. Boeing and AAR International/ Telair International, which were also previously named as defendants, settled before trial, according to information from Nolan Law Group. Mark A. Dombroff, a Dentons partner based out of Washington, D.C., who represented National Air, declined to comment.

The case was tried before Circuit Judge Lorna E. Propes. The three consolidated cases were Elizabeth Brokaw v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9650; William Thompson v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9651; and Robin D. Hasler, et al., v. Natio

**VIDEO** Donald J. Nolan Interviewed on ABC News Discussing Springfield School Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Donald J. Nolan was recently interviewed on Springfield’s ABC News 20 regarding an incident which occurred last September that sent more than 180 students from North Mac school to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Five separate lawsuits were filed in connection with the deadly gas exposure.

Donald J. Nolan Re: North Mac school carbon monoxide poisoning

Source: ABC News

Lufthansa’s Low Ball Offer on Germanwings Aviation Disaster–An Open Invitation to Sue

While en route to Düsseldorf, Germany from Barcelona, Spain in March, 2015, an airplane owned and operated by Lufthansa Germanwings crashed into the French Alps, killing all passengers and two pilots. Investigators later discovered one of the pilots–Andreas Lubitz–deliberately crashed the plane into the mountains after locking the other pilot out of the cockpit.

Recently, Lubitz’s employer and operator of the Germanwings airline, Lufthansa, offered financial compensation to relatives of those killed in the crash amounting to 25,000 euros (USD$27,740) per victim.  Chicago Aviation Law firm, Nolan Law Group, believes that this offer is completely inadequate and worthy of further appeals for more of a realistic compensation amount.

 

Lufthansa Germanwings executives hold a joint press conference  in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Lufthansa has also said they plan to provide 7.8 million euros to pay the educational expenses of children who lost one or both parents in the crash and that the airline will set aside 6 million euros towards “individual support for aid projects of relatives” in the coming months, although exact details of the program have not been revealed.

Why Relatives of Crash Victims Will Need an Aviation Accident Lawyer

While compensation for some of the deceased’s families is expected to be less than $100,000, other relatives could receive millions of dollars because of their nationality.

As explained by aviation litigation attorney Donald J. Nolan: “Compensation amounts are ultimately determined by a country’s unique legal system regarding aviation disaster compensation limits”.

According to a Time Magazine article, a U.S. aviation litigation attorney can get their clients millions of dollars in compensation for either surviving an airplane crash or being the relative of someone who died in an airplane crash. Contrast that to China, for example, where the average settlement for victims of airplane disasters is only around $500,000–and it’s even lower for European victims of airplane disasters.

The Montreal Convention

Compensation for non-U.S. victims and their families of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash will be much less than for American passengers aboard the plane when it crash-landed at the San Francisco airport in 2013, killing three Chinese girls and injuring nearly 200 passengers.

A treaty called the Montreal Convention regulates compensation to people suffering injuries while traveling by air internationally. This treaty prevents non-U.S. citizens aboard Flight 214 from filing lawsuits in U.S. courts, even though the crash happened in San Francisco. Consequently, many victims will not receive adequate compensation amounts they deserve. However, some victims have hired an American airplane crash attorney skilled in navigating complex European and Asian laws to help them get the compensation they deserve.

The Korean Airline Crash of 1997

Director of Litigation Thomas J. Ellis points out the cases of family members of victims killed in the 1997 Korean Airlines disaster who, by filing lawsuits in the U.S., received over 100 times more money than victims suing in South Korea.  Asiana, the airline responsible for the 2013 San Francisco crash, claimed they were only obliged to pay $170,000 per passenger, citing the Montreal Convention.

Non-U.S. victims and relatives of victims injured in an airplane crash must endure years of endless litigation, stalling tactics by airline attorneys and, ultimately, out-of-court settlements that are disturbing inadequate and insulting. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced airplane injury attorney working for Nolan Law Group is essential to fighting successfully for the right to receive compensation due to airline negligence.

**VIDEO** Donald J. Nolan Interviewed on Fox News Discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

The media often looks to Nolan Law Group for insights into important legal issues. Considered by many journalists to be an authoritative resource for accurate information, our attorneys and experts are frequently interviewed by newspapers and magazines, as well as many television news programs. Donald J. Nolan was interviewed on Fox News discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 on Friday July 18, 2014.

Donald J. Nolan Re: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

Source: Fox News

**VIDEO** Thomas P. Routh Interviewed on NBC News Discussing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

The media often looks to Nolan Law Group for insights into important legal issues. Considered by many journalists to be an authoritative resource for accurate information, our attorneys and experts are frequently interviewed by newspapers and magazines, as well as many television news programs. Thomas P. Routh was recently interviewed on NBC Nightly News by Tom Costello regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 on Friday July 18, 2014.

Thomas P. Routh Re: Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17

Source: NBC News

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 – International Treaty Affords Legal Right to Passengers’ Families to Pursue Claims in Their Home Countries

Given the location and geo-political implications of the occurrence involving Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17, speculation as to its cause will likely run rampant for years and remain vehemently contested even after a governmental probable cause is determined.

Yet regardless of the ultimate cause of the occurrence, the rights of the passenger’s beneficiaries to recover compensation for damages from Malaysia Airlines will be governed by the Montreal Convention of 1999. Even out-of-court, private settlements between the air carrier and passengers’ beneficiaries would be predicated on the provisions of the Montreal Convention.

Article 17(1) of the Convention provides:

“The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.”

Beyond this threshold requirement, Article 21 of the Convention establishes a two-tiered scheme of liability for compensation. First, the air carrier is strictly liability up to an amount of 100,000 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which had the equivalent of US $154,166 on July 17, 2014. Thereafter, there is presumptive liability to an unlimited amount unless the air carrier proves that:

“(a) Such damage was not due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its servants or agents; or (b) Such damage was solely due to the negligence or other wrongful act or omission of a third party.”

If an air carrier and the passenger’s beneficiaries are unable to reach an agreement on the amount of compensation for damages, a court action must be brought within the two years prescribed under Article 35.

The location or jurisdiction for the bringing of such a court action is limited under Article 33 of the Convention to one of five places:

1. a court in the country where the air carrier maintains its domicile;

2. a court in the country where the air carrier maintains its principal place of business;

3. a court in the country where the air carrier has a place of business through which the contract has been made (usually considered the place the ticket was purchased);

4. a court in the country of the place of destination; or

5. a court in the country in which the passenger had his or her principal and permanent residence, so long as the air carrier or its code sharing partner does business there.

Many of these five potential jurisdictions are often the same in a given action. However, to the extent that they are different, it is the option of the plaintiff as to which of the five jurisdictions the action is to be brought.

Once an action is brought, the Montreal Convention continues to govern the substantive legal remedies of the parties, but under Article 33(4), “questions of procedure shall be governed by the law of the court seised of the case.” Such applicable procedural law may well contain limitations of the nature and amount of the recoverable damages. This must be appreciated and understood before settlement or proceeding with an action in any court.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed From Plane Crash Captured In Viral Video

(Chicago, July 8, 2013) A wrongful death lawsuit was filed today in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois on behalf of the family of an airline employee who perished in the fiery crash of a Boeing 747 cargo plane outside Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan on April 29, 2013.  The victim, Gary P. Stockdale, was a mechanic for National Airlines who was aboard the flight when it crashed shortly after takeoff.  The suit was filed by Chicago-based Nolan Law Group which is also representing the families of Jamie Lee Brokaw and Rinku Summan, pilots for National Airlines who were among the seven men killed in the crash.

Video of the crash captured on a vehicle dash cam went viral after being posted on the internet through the Live Leaks website.

At the time of the crash, the plane was transporting cargo that included five Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles weighing nearly 80 tons which were on pallets in the main cargo area of the plane.  Government investigators have reported that it is likely a shift in the cargo from one of the vehicles breaking loose from its restraints that resulted in the crash.

The suit alleges that the accident aircraft was unreasonably dangerous and unfit for the transport of high density, rolling cargo and that Boeing’s manuals lacked sufficient limitations and warnings related to the transportation of such cargo.  The suit further alleges that the airplane’s cargo restraint system was faulty, that it was improperly assembled by Boeing during its conversion from a passenger to a cargo aircraft, and that the instructions on the use of the cargo restraint system were inadequate.

Well-known as an aviation law firm, Nolan Law Group has extensive experience in major air cargo crash litigation having represented crew members and families of crew members in accidents involving Fine Air at Miami Airport in August 1997, Emery Worldwide near Sacramento in February 2000, and most recently the Kalitta Air Boeing 747 crash near Bogotá, Colombia in July 2008.  The firm has also been active in other crash claims from Afghanistan including a previous National Airlines crash near Kabul in October 2010, and the successful resolution of claims arising from a fatal helicopter accident at Kandahar Air Field in July 2009.

 

Contact:

Tom Ellis

tje@nolan-law.com

Office: (312) 630-4000 x.112

Cell: (312) 493-3349

Asiana Accident Highlights Passenger Rights And Limitations To Recovery

Although Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while landing at the San Francisco International Airport, contrary to simple logic, lex loci delicti may not be applicable and the United States may not be a forum for all passengers to bring a case against the airline. In cases wherein a claim may not be brought against the carrier in the United States under the provisions of the Montreal Convention, a passenger may wish to consider other avenues of recovery. Historically, these have included claims against aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers, airport operators and pilot training facilities. In each of the foregoing, it should be proven that adequate ties exist which points to the United States courts as the most convenient forum where the case may be filed and heard.

Under the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the “Montreal Convention”), a treaty superseding the Warsaw Convention, which the United States ratified on July 31, 2003, any one of the following basis for jurisdiction should be present before jurisdiction may be acquired by the US court, namely: (1) domicile of the carrier; (2) the “principal place of the business” of the carrier; (3) the place where the carrier has a “place of business through which the contract has been made; (4) “the place of destination”; or (5) the “principal and permanent residence” of the passenger.” Art. 33, Montreal Convention, as quoted in Baah v. Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., 473 F.Supp.2d 591 (2007).

Thus, as held by the Adjoyi, et. al. v. Federal Air (Pty) Ltd., 137 F. Supp.2d 498 (2001), federal district courts have no jurisdiction over Warsaw Convention (now Montreal Convention) claim unless air carrier’s domicile or principal of business is in the United States, the carrier has place of business through which contract for passage was made in the United States, or that the United States is the place of destination of flights. Applying the foregoing to the recent crash, it is clear that only the third, fourth or fifth basis (added by the Montreal Convention) would allow a claim to be filed in the United States, to wit, where the ticket was purchased in the United States, or that the United States was indicated as the ticket’s final destination or where the passenger is a resident of the United States, regardless of where the ticket was purchased or its destination is. Otherwise, a case filed with the US courts may be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

In addition to the foregoing, Article 17 of the Montreal Convention provides that a carrier is liable only when death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of the operations of embarking or disembarking. It likewise provides that for death or bodily injury claims, the carrier cannot exclude or limit its liability if damages do not exceed 100,000 special drawing rights. Article 21 of the Montreal Convention. Furthermore, a carrier may not be liable for any claims in excess of the said amount, should the carrier prove that damage was not due to the negligence or wrongful act or omission of the carrier or its agents and employees, or that the damage was due to negligence or wrongful act or omission of a third party. Id.

 

Wife of Afghanistan Plane Crash Victim Retains Aviation Attorneys

A Boeing 747 cargo plane, operated by National Air Cargo, crashed on takeoff from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on April 29th of 2013, killing all seven of its crew members. Among these crew members was Jamie Lee Brokaw (33) of Monroe, Michigan, a third generation pilot whose family’s aviation history stretches back to WWII. Brokaw was a member of the U.S. Air Force during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom before becoming a commercial airline pilot in 2008 and a First Officer in 2010. Brokaw is survived by his wife Elizabeth, who has retained Nolan Law Group to represent it for claims arising from the fatal injuries he sustained in the crash.

The accident gained unusual international attention when footage of the crash was posted on the internet and speculation ensued as to its cause, as the aircraft attained a very steep nose-up attitude immediately after takeoff. The aircraft then rolled left and right and entered a stall, where it descended into the ground near the end of the runway. Mrs. Brokaw, confident of her husband’s knowledge and attention to safety are searching for further answers and placing liability, something government investigators are precluded from doing. The accident aircraft was originally manufactured as a passenger aircraft and converted to a freighter in December of 2007 by Boeing for Air France. This raises some serious concerns about the structural strength of the aircraft and floor, as well as issues about the cargo restraint systems. The plane’s cargo included extremely heavy vehicles, and although the total cargo weight was within proper limits, the individual restraint capabilities of such heavy vehicles have their own limits.

Well-known as an aviation law firm, Nolan Law Group has extensive experience in major air cargo crash litigation, having represented crew members in accidents both nationally and internationally. A few examples include Fine Air at Miami Airport in August 1997, Emery Worldwide near Sacramento, California in February 2000, and most recently the Kalitta Air Boeing 747 accident near Bogotá, Colombia in July 2008. The firm has also been active in other crash claims from Afghanistan including a previous National Airlines crash near Kabul in October 2010, and the successful resolution of claims arising from a fatal helicopter accident at Kandahar Air Field in July 2009. Brokaw is also survived by his step-daughter Chloe and parents Susan and Terry.

 

Nolan Law Group Video Report: Mirena IUD Complications

Several lawsuits have been filed against Bayer for the serious medical, physical and emotional problems resulting from use of Mirena. The lawsuits also specify Bayer knew of the risks and failed to disclose the dangers associated with using the IUD. Bayer is also accused of using deceptive marketing practices in advertising Mirena to the public. The FDA did issue a warning to Bayer for deceiving advertising practices; however, Mirena is still on the market today and available for use.

Mirena IUD Complications

The FDA did issue a warning to Bayer for deceiving advertising practices; however, Mirena is still on the market today and available for use.