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Small Jet Crashes in Minnesota; at Least 8 Killed

OWATONNA, Minn. (AP) _ A small jet crashed in strong thunderstorms Thursday while preparing to land at a regional airport in Minnesota, killing at least eight people, including several casino and construction executives.

Sheriff Gary Ringhofer said there were at most nine people aboard the Raytheon Hawker 800, which went down at a regional airport about 60 miles south of the Twin Cities. He said investigators were looking into whether there was a passenger who is unaccounted for.

Seven people were dead at the scene. One died later at a hospital.

Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans told The Associated Press that those on board included two high-ranking executives from Revel Entertainment, which is building a $2 billion hotel-casino project in Atlantic City, and several employees of Tishman Construction, which is working on the project. He didn’t know their identities, but said Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis was not on board.

Bud Perrone, a spokesman for Tishman, identified one of the victims as Karen Sandland, a project manager on the Revel project who worked out of Tishman’s Newark, N.J., office. He said the company thinks Sandland was the only Tishman employee on board, but that it was trying to confirm that.

Lauren Avellino Turton, a spokesperson for Revel, confirmed in a written statement that several company employees were killed in the crash, although she didn’t identify those killed or say how many were on board.

“Revel is mourning the loss of several of its team members,” the statement read. “The design team was heading to Minnesota for a glass manufacturing meeting.”

The charter jet, flying from from Atlantic City, N.J., to Owatonna, a town of 25,000, went down in a cornfield northwest of Degner Regional Airport, scattering debris, Ringhofer said. The wreckage was not visible to reporters because tall corn obscured the crash site.

Cameron Smith, a mechanic at the airport, said he spoke by radio with the jet’s pilot just minutes before the crash. The pilot was about to land and was asking where he should park for fuel, Smith said.

He ran to the crash scene to see if anyone could be helped, but saw only a long skid path and debris that he described as “shredded.”

“I was amazed to hear that someone survived,” he said. “There was no fuselage. There were just parts.”

Quinn Johnson, an assistant manager at a restaurant about three miles from the airport, didn’t see the crash, but heard it. She initially thought it was a tornado.

“It lasted, I’m guessing, probably 15, 20 seconds, maybe slightly longer than that. It was a really, really loud, kind of a rumbling, screechy type noise,” Johnson said.

The crash happened as severe weather battered parts of southern Minnesota. An hour before the accident, a 72 mph wind gust was reported in Owatonna, according to the National Weather Service.

Both Smith and Johnson said the crash happened after the worst of the storm had passed, with the sky clearing and only light rain.

The plane had been scheduled to land at 9:42 a.m., then take off at 11:40 a.m. for Crossville, Tenn.

Viracon earlier this year was awarded a contract to supply glass to the World Trade Center replacement project. The company’s president, Don Pyatt, told the Owatonna People’s Press that the customers were from “a couple of different companies” who were coming to the plant to discuss a project in Las Vegas.

Pyatt gave no other details, and didn’t return a call from The Associated Press.

Mary Ann Jackson, a spokeswoman for Viracon’s parent company Apogee Enterprises Inc., confirmed to the AP that those on board were Viracon customers, but declined to provide any other details. She said no Viracon employees were involved in the crash.

The airport lies alongside Interstate 35 as it skirts Owatonna’s western edge. The airport’s Web site describes it as “ideal for all classes of corporate aircraft use” with an all-weather instrument landing system. “Maintaining access to Owatonna’s business community in all weather conditions is a priority,” the site says.

Sharon Gordon, a spokeswoman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates Atlantic City International Airport, said the East Coast Jets plane landed at the airport at 7:10 a.m. from its base in Allentown, Pa.

It picked up several passengers, although there is confusion about how many actually got in the plane, she said.

“We really don’t know the total amount,” she said. “It turned around very quickly, leaving at 8:13 a.m., and required no services on the ground.”

Toni Evans, an executive assistant for the SOSH architectural firm in Atlantic City, said at least some of those on board the plane were affiliated with the company, though none were company employees.

“They were from a couple of different companies,” she said. “We’ve been asked not to say anything further about it at this point. We don’t know who survived and who didn’t.”

She said the people affiliated with the firm were New Jersey residents.

SOSH specializes in designing casino projects. It is helping design the $2 billion Revel Entertainment casino-hotel project in Atlantic City, and the $333 million Buffalo Creek casino-hotel project in upstate New York for the Seneca Nation, among other projects.

The Associated Press, 07/31/2008
By AMY FORLITI

Associated Press writer Wayne Parry in Atlantic City, N.J. contributed to this report.

Peruvian Government Insubstantial Report Not Surprising, Peruvian Government Issues Final Report for TANS Peru Crash August 23, 2005

Chicago The government of Peru has issued their final report of the TANS airlines Boeing 737-244 accident official investigation from August 23 2005. (Click link for full report) The vague report concludes pilot error and adverse weather conditions contributed to the crash which killed 45 people and injured the other 55 passengers. The report notes the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) had nothing usable to determine the cause of the crash and is still being held as what many see as the to determining what really happened.

On August 23, 2005, a TANS (Transportes Aeros Nacionales de la Selva) Boeing 737-200 with 100 people on board (92 passengers, 8 crew) was flying from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru, a popular tourist destination 840 kilometers (520 miles) northeast of the capital, when it crashed on approach to landing during turbulent weather conditions.

On April 4, 2006 Nolan Law Group served the Peruvian Government with 29 petitions, signed by survivors or families of the victims. These petitions requested the government of Peru, through its Aircraft Accident Investigation Commission (Comision de Investigacion de Accidentes Aereos), exercise its discretion under Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation to release the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and the flight data recorder tapes. The Peruvian Government has refused to honor the request.

On May 31, 2006 Nolan Law Group filed lawsuits on behalf of six members of the Vivas family from New York, one Peruvian survivor and the father of a six month old baby who was killed in the crash. The plaintiffs complaints include two counts each against Boeing and United Technologies Company (operating as Pratt Whitney) alleging negligence and product liability and one count against TANS Peru alleging negligence.

“This unreleased evidence is vital in determining the actual cause of the crash and who may be” said Donald J. Nolan of Nolan Law Group regarding the withheld CVR and FDR. “Given the myriad of unanswered questions in the report, this is precisely a case that requires full disclosure” offers Nolan.

The final report indicates that the accident airplane was equipped with a ground proximity warning system (GPWS) and that a wind shear detection device was added to the airplane three months prior to the accident. With both of these systems in place, the pilots should have received warnings prior to the plane crashing. For example, the audible warnings of “wind shear, wind shear” and “terrain, terrain” would have alerted pilots under proper conditions. However, the final report states that investigators were not able to verify the functionality of this equipment, leading to speculation that perhaps the GPWS was not working properly.

Under international treaty, the investigation if the TANS Peru crash was lead by the government of Peru. The Peruvian investigators faced numerous constraints such as lack of funding and resources. These types of constraints limit the ability of investigators to perform proper testing and analysis and preclude their access to resources and independent experts.

Acknowledging the inevitable constraints of a governmental investigation, Nolan notes that his firm “stands ready to have all of the factual information and data analyzed and tested by the best available experts in order to provide the victims and their families with full and complete answers.”

To date, however, the government of Peru, which through (FONAFE) indirectly owns the stock of TANS Peru, has refused to provide the victims and their families with any of the factual information and data related to the crash. “We simply want access to factual information; you have to wonder why they won’t give us that.”

About Nolan Law Group

Nolan Law Group helps individuals and families, in Chicago and around the world, after a tragic loss or serious personal injury. The law firm focuses its practice primarily on mass tort aviation and closed brain injury litigation.

Nolan Law Group is one of small number of law firms with a niche in the highly complex and ever-changing area of aviation litigation and is active all over the world. With regard to traumatic brain injury litigation, Nolan Law Group has pioneered the use of sophisticated technology to demonstrate the extent of brain damage that can occur as a result of accidents.

The firm has earned recognition by the legal industry leading authority, Martindale-Hubbell, for impeccable professional ethics and for legal abilities of the highest caliber.

2 Medical Choppers Collide Near Arizona Hospital, Leaving 6 Dead and 1 Critically Injured

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (AP) _ A helicopter ferrying a patient with a medical emergency from the Grand Canyon collided into another chopper carrying a patient near a northern Arizona hospital, leaving six people dead and critically injuring a nurse. Continue Reading

Survivors of 2005 TANS Peru Crash File Multiple Lawsuits Against Boeing Company

Formal Complaints filed Against Boeing, TANS Peru and United Technologies Company (DBA Pratt and Whitney)

CHICAGO Victims of TANS Peru Flight 204 have filed suit from the gruesome plane crash which killed 45 people and injured 55 passengers and flight crew in August 2005. Nolan Law Group today filed the first formal complaints in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois alleging negligence and product liability against Boeing, TANS Peru and United Technologies Corporation (DBA Pratt and Whitney.) The complaints were filed on behalf of six members of the Vivas family from New York, one Peruvian survivor and the father of a six month old baby who was killed in the crash.

On August 23, 2005, a TANS (Transportes Aeros Nacionales de la Selva) Boeing 737-200 with 100 people on board (92 passengers, 8 crew) was flying from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru, a popular tourist destination 840 kilometers (520 miles) northeast of the capital, when it crashed on approach to landing during turbulent weather conditions.

Attorney Donald J. Nolan stated “Not only has the memory of this devastating crash scarred the lives of the Vivas family and other families; their future is filled with enormous pain and suffering. Their life long torment will include significant expenses for necessary medical care and psychological treatment, Nolan explained

The lawsuits filed today include two counts each against Boeing and United Technologies Company (operating as Pratt Whitney) alleging negligence and product liability and one count of negligence against TANS Peru charging negligence.

“This is a situation where the combination of the aircraft and engine design, the weather and the poor pilot training proved to be lethal.” Nolan said.

On April 4, 2005 Nolan Law Group petitioned the Peruvian Government to release the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder from the crash. Peru would not comply. Peru rejected the firms request to have a transparent investigation on behalf of their clients and other survivors/ victims families.

The lawsuit claims the engines were not only poorly designed but defective in nature. The Pratt and Whitney engines failed to properly deflect precipitation, causing the aircraft to be inoperable in a tropical environment which commonly contains high liquid water content. In addition, the re-light system in the engines failed to energize igniters in the event of a flameout. Thirdly, the engines had not been properly maintained with proper safety instructions and warnings in place.

About Nolan Law Group

Nolan Law Group helps individuals and families, in Chicago and around the world, after a tragic loss or serious personal injury. The law firm focuses its practice primarily on mass tort aviation and closed brain injury litigation.

Nolan Law Group is one of small number of law firms with a niche in the highly complex and ever-changing area of aviation litigation and is active all over the world. With regard to traumatic brain injury litigation, Nolan Law Group has pioneered the use of sophisticated technology to demonstrate the extent of brain damage that can occur as a result of accidents.

The firm has earned recognition by the legal industry-leading authority, Martindale-Hubbell, for impeccable professional ethics and for legal abilities of the highest caliber.

Iowa Resident Dies After Using Contaminated Blood Thinner – Illinois Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Named In Lawsuit

CHICAGO, Illinois (May 14, 2008) – Last month a lawsuit was filed against Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter International Inc. on behalf of Davenport, Iowa resident, Mark Scott who suffered the tragic loss of his wife, Melissa Scott, on November 30, 2007. The complaint was filed On April 1, 2008 in the Circuit Court of Cook County by Nolan Law Group and alleges that Melissa Scott’s untimely death was caused by her exposure to Heparin Sodium Injection Therapy. The complaint cites two counts of product liability and negligence on the part of Baxter International.

The lawsuit filed by Nolan Law Group and Mark Scott asserts that Baxter International was responsible for the manufacture, sale and distribution of a product containing toxic chemicals. It also claims that the product was manufactured with insufficient amounts of the active ingredient API and that Baxter International failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions to assist users in identifying adverse reactions.

Baxter’s Heparin has been implicated in more than 400 life-threatening incidents and may be responsible for as many as 81 deaths. In February 2008, Baxter initiated a voluntary recall of nine lots of Heparin Sodium Injection Multi-Dose Vials. According to Baxter International, they recalled the lots due to a spike in adverse reports associated with the use of Baxter Heparin Sodium Injections. After receiving additional reports of similar adverse reactions from other lots of their Heparin Sodium Injection Products, Baxter recalled their remaining multi-dose and single-dose vials, as well as HEP-LOCK Heparin Flush Products.

It was around this same time that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued its initial Public Health Advisory warning doctors and other health practitioners not to use Baxter Heparin products. The report stated that serious injuries and deaths have been associated with the use of Heparin. The adverse effects have included allergic or hypersensitivity-type reactions with symptoms, such as low blood pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and death.

Since the original complaint was filed, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted a formal investigation in which they identified an unknown contaminant found in the Baxter Heparin. In early April of 2008, researchers confirmed the FDA’S suspicion that the contaminant found in the Heparin is Oversulfated Chondroitin Sulfate (OSCS), a derivative of a popular supplement used to relieve arthritis, and a chemical that does not occur naturally during Heparin production. Additionally, the FDA investigation revealed more information about inadequate testing and supply-chain issues associated with the Baxter Heparin.

Raw Heparin is often processed by small, unregistered “mom-and-pop” workshops in China. However, the key to establishing causation in the Scott case, despite all of the issues with unsanitary conditions, etc., will be Baxter’s failure to perform a chemical test on the Heparin which would have been sensitive enough to identify the difference between Heparin and OSCS. The abhorrent conditions in China from where Heparin was being imported (and the fact that the FDA was not doing significant inspections) required the need for more sensitive testing.

According to the FDA’s inspection, the Changzhou SPL Facility was unable to provide FDA with any assurance “that processing steps used to manufacture heparin sodium, USP are capable of effectively removing impurities.” FDA also found that the facility failed “to have adequate systems for evaluating the suppliers of crude heparin materials, or the crude materials themselves, to ensure that these materials are acceptable for use.” Moreover, the methods employed to test Heparin Sodium United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) had not been verified to ensure suitability under actual conditions of use, and the equipment used to manufacture the product was “unsuitable” for its intended use.

China’s Ministry of Commerce is now requiring local Heparin makers to increase testing of raw materials, improve post-sale tracking and ensure that their raw material comes from registered suppliers. This requirement follows U.S. Congressional inquiries into the FDA’s overseas inspection process.

The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on April 15th of this year regarding the distribution of contaminated Heparin. A follow-up hearing took place on April 22nd at which time the committee asked FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach how the agency will address concerns regarding its efforts to inspect foreign drug facilities.

Mr. Scott has been appointed special administrator of his wife’s estate and, as such, is seeking personal and pecuniary damages from Baxter International Inc. for the loss of his wife in a sum in excess of the minimal jurisdictional limits of the Cook County Circuit Court.

Nolan Law Group is a Chicago-based personal injury law firm concentrating in aviation accidents, construction accidents, brain injury litigation, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, and trucking accidents.

Illinois Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Sued For Injuries To Kentucky Resident – Injuries Believed To Be Caused By Contaminated Blood Thinner

CHICAGO, Illinois (May 14, 2008) – The blood thinner Heparin continues to make headlines as more people are found to have suffered serious injuries and/or death after using the contaminated drug – a group of which appears to include many Kentucky residents.

On Friday, May 2, 2008, another lawsuit was filed against Chicago-area pharmaceutical giant, Baxter International Inc. on behalf of Louisville, Kentucky resident, Artemus Banks. The complaint was filed by Nolan Law Group in Federal Court located in Chicago, Illinois. Nolan Law Group has already been responsible for filing several lawsuits on behalf of victims and the families of victims who have suffered a personal injury and/or death caused by the use of this contaminated drug. Due to the enormity and severity of the contamination, Nolan Law Group expects to file many more similar cases.

This most recent lawsuit names Scientific Protein Laboratories L.L.C. (the company which manufactures the active pharmaceutical ingredient API in Heparin) as well as certain corporate officers of Baxter. The lawsuit asserts that Baxter International and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Baxter Healthcare Corporation, manufactured the drug with a contaminated API and that Baxter failed to recall the defective drug in a timely fashion. The suit cites four causes of action against Baxter and Scientific Protein Labs including Products Liability, Negligence, Breach of Warranties and Willful and Wanton Misconduct.

Baxter’s Heparin has been implicated in more than 400 life-threatening incidents and may be responsible for as many as 81 deaths. In February 2008, Baxter initiated a voluntary recall of nine lots of Heparin Sodium Injection Multi-Dose Vials. According to Baxter International, they recalled the lots due to a spike in adverse reports associated with the use of Baxter Heparin Sodium Injections. After receiving additional reports of similar adverse reactions from other lots of their Heparin Sodium Injection Products, Baxter recalled their remaining multi-dose and single-dose vials, as well as HEP-LOCK Heparin Flush Products.

In January of 2008, Mr. Banks received a box of 25 vials of Baxter Heparin from Fresenius Medical Care for use during home dialysis treatments. Banks used the product as prescribed but began experiencing numerous physical symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, increased perspiration and sudden weakness. Today, Mr. Banks continues to suffer as a result of his Heparin use.

The suit falls on the heels of a recent finding by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifying an unknown contaminant found in the Baxter Heparin. In early April of 2008, researchers confirmed the FDA’S suspicion that the contaminant found in the Heparin is Oversulfated Chondroitin Sulfate (OSCS), a derivative of a popular supplement used to relieve arthritis, and a chemical which does not occur naturally during Heparin production.

Raw Heparin is derived from pig intestines and is often processed by small, unregistered “mom-and-pop” workshops in China. The key to establishing causation in this case, despite all of the issues with unsanitary conditions, etc., will be Baxter’s failure to perform a chemical test on the Heparin which would have been sensitive enough to identify the difference between Heparin and OSCS. The abhorrent conditions in China from where Heparin was being imported (and the fact that the FDA was not doing significant inspections) required the need for more sensitive testing.

According to the FDA inspection, the Changzhou SPL Facility was unable to provide FDA with any assurance “that processing steps used to manufacture heparin sodium, USP are capable of effectively removing impurities.” FDA also found that the facility failed “to have adequate systems for evaluating the suppliers of crude heparin materials, or the crude materials themselves, to ensure that these materials are acceptable for use.” Moreover, the methods employed to test Heparin Sodium United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) had not been verified to ensure suitability under actual conditions of use and the equipment used to manufacture the product was “unsuitable” for its intended use.

China’s Ministry of Commerce is now requiring local Heparin makers to increase testing of raw materials, improve post-sale tracking and ensure that their raw material comes from registered suppliers. This requirement follows U.S. Congressional inquiries into the FDA’s overseas inspection process.

The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on April 15th of this year regarding the distribution of contaminated Heparin. A follow-up hearing took place on April 22nd at which time the committee asked FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach how the agency will address concerns regarding its efforts to inspect foreign drug facilities.

Mr. Banks is seeking judgment against all defendants for compensatory and punitive damages arising from the personal injuries that he suffered from the use of a pharmaceutical drug commonly known as Heparin.

Nolan Law Group is a Chicago-based personal injury law firm concentrating in aviation accidents, construction accidents, brain injury litigation, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, and trucking accidents.

Illinois Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Named In Yet Another Heparin Lawsuit After Virginia Resident Dies

CHICAGO, Illinois (May 14, 2008) – The blood thinner Heparin continues to make headlines as more people are found to have suffered serious injuries and/or death after using the contaminated drug – a group of which appears to include several Virginia residents.

On Friday May 2, 2008, a lawsuit was filed against Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter International Inc. on behalf of Coeburn, Virginia resident, Angela Lawson-Greear who suffered the tragic loss of her father, Thomas Troy Lawson, on February 13, 2008. This is the third lawsuit of its kind filed by Nolan Law Group and follows a recent finding by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifying an unknown contaminant found in Baxter Heparin. Due to the enormity and severity of the contamination, the firm expects to file several similar cases in the near future.

The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County by Nolan Law Group and alleges that Thomas Lawson’s untimely death was caused by his exposure to contaminated Heparin. The complaint cites multiple counts of Products Liability, Negligence, Breach of Warranties and Willful and Wanton Misconduct on the part of Baxter International and Baxter Healthcare Corporation.

The lawsuit filed by Mrs. Lawson and Nolan Law Group asserts that Baxter International and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Baxter Healthcare Corporation, was responsible for the manufacture, sale and distribution of a product containing toxic chemicals. It also claims that the product was manufactured with a contaminated API and that Baxter failed to recall the defective drug in a timely fashion.

Baxter’s Heparin has been implicated in more than 400 life-threatening incidents and may be responsible for as many as 81 deaths. In February 2008, Baxter initiated a voluntary recall of nine lots of Heparin Sodium Injection Multi-Dose Vials. According to Baxter International, they recalled the lots due to a spike in adverse reports associated with the use of Baxter Heparin Sodium Injections. After receiving additional reports of similar adverse reactions from other lots of their Heparin Sodium Injection Products, Baxter recalled their remaining multi-dose and single-dose vials, as well as HEP-LOCK Heparin Flush Products.

Prior to February 13, 2008, Thomas Lawson was receiving home dialysis for a medical condition and was prescribed Baxter Heparin as part of his Heparin Sodium Injection Therapy. Mr. Lawson used the product as prescribed but began experiencing numerous physical symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, increased perspiration and sudden weakness. Mr. Lawson ultimately died as a result of his contaminated Heparin use.

In early April of 2008, researchers confirmed the FDA’S suspicion that the contaminant found in the Heparin is Oversulfated Chondroitin Sulfate (OSCS), a derivative of a popular supplement used to relieve arthritis, and a chemical which does not occur naturally during Heparin production.

Raw Heparin is derived from pig intestines and is often processed by small, unregistered “mom-and-pop” workshops in China. The key to establishing causation in this case, despite all of the issues with unsanitary conditions, etc., will be Baxter’s failure to perform a chemical test on the Heparin which would have been sensitive enough to identify the difference between Heparin and OSCS. The abhorrent conditions in China from where Heparin was being imported (and the fact that the FDA was not doing significant inspections) required the need for more sensitive testing.

According to FDA’s inspection, the Changzhou SPL Facility was unable to provide FDA with any assurance “that processing steps used to manufacture heparin sodium, USP are capable of effectively removing impurities.” FDA also found that the facility failed “to have adequate systems for evaluating the suppliers of crude heparin materials, or the crude materials themselves, to ensure that these materials are acceptable for use.” Moreover, the methods employed to test Heparin Sodium United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) had not been verified to ensure suitability under actual conditions of use, and the equipment used to manufacture the product was “unsuitable” for its intended use.

China’s Ministry of Commerce is now requiring local Heparin makers to increase testing of raw materials, improve post-sale tracking and ensure that their raw material comes from registered suppliers. This requirement follows U.S. Congressional inquiries into the FDA’s overseas inspection process.

The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on April 15th of this year regarding the distribution of contaminated Heparin. A follow-up hearing took place on April 22nd at which time the committee asked FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach how the agency will address concerns regarding its efforts to inspect foreign drug facilities.

Angela Lawson has been appointed special administrator of her father’s estate and as such is seeking personal and pecuniary damages from Baxter International Inc. for the loss of her father in a sum in excess of the minimal jurisdictional limits of the Cook County Circuit Court.

Nolan Law Group is a Chicago-based personal injury law firm concentrating in aviation accidents, construction accidents, brain injury litigation, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, and trucking accidents.

The Crash of Air Philippines 541

Eight years ago April 19, 2000, Air Philippines Flight 541, with 131 passengers and crew members, left Manila at 5:21 a.m., flying to Davao City, on Samal Island, about 600 miles southeast of Manila.

As it approached the airport at around 7 a.m., another aircraft was on the runway. Flight 541 began to circle in low clouds, waiting for the plane on the ground to move off the runway. As it circled, Flight 541 slammed into the side of a mountain, 500 feet above sea level. The plane caught fire and disintegrated, killing everyone on board. It was the worst air disaster in the history of the Philippines. But there is more to this story than another horrible air crash. As airplanes in the American fleets wear out when they reach a point where the cost of overhauling the planes, which can run between $2 million and $8 million, is no longer worth it they are retired to the Arizona desert. There are thousands of worn-out planes lined up in the desert waiting for a second life. From there, leasing companies purchase the planes and lease them to other, usually foreign, usually developing, airlines.

Flight 541 was a Boeing 737, a 22-year-old plane that had been put out to pasture by Southwest Airlines, and bought by AAR Aircraft & Engine Group, a publicly traded company based in Wood Dale, Ill. AAR leased the plane to Air Philippines in January 1999 and sold the plane in April 1999 to Fleet Business Credit Corp., now a division of Bank of America, and assigned Fleet its rights under the lease.

The lawsuit against AAR and Fleet was filed in Cook County Circuit Court and, following litigation over the forum issue, including an appeal, stayed here. The lead plaintiff was a Chicago resident, Boeing’s corporate headquarters are here, and AAR is in Wood Dale. Donald J. Nolan of Chicago’s Nolan Law Group, who represented 47 of the plaintiffs, was appointed lead counsel. There were three other firms representing plaintiffs, all from the San Francisco Bay Area: Sterns & Walker; Bowles & Verna; and O’Reilly & Danko. Gary W. Westerberg, Christopher R. Barth, T. Patrick Byrnes, and Mark A. Deptula of Locke, Lord, Bissell & Liddell, represented the defendants.

The case settled in November 2007 for $165 million, which, Nolan said, worked out to about $1.5 million per victim.

Aside from the inherent interest of a huge settlement, the case is interesting as yet another feature of globalization in this case, the globalization of the airline industry, and the ethical and legal obligations of the companies that buy and lease the planes to airlines in countries where the safety standards are well below American and European standards and where even the culture plays a role in the safety of airlines. In the last five years, there have been more than 10 fatal commercial airline crashes involving aircraft leased to developing countries, the latest occurred on April 15 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing at least 75 people.

Chicago Lawyer sat down recently with Nolan to discuss the case.

Chicago Lawyer: What were the liability issues in the case?

Nolan: There were four main issues: crew resource management, the failure to provide an enhanced ground proximity warning system under our product liability theory and spoliation for the destruction of the wreckage and failure to perform maintenance under negligent entrustment.

Chicago Lawyer: Let’s start with crew resource management. First, what is it, then, how is that an issue?

Nolan: Prior to the crash, the FAA mandated in the U.S. that crews have crew resource management (CRM) training, and what that deals with is a culture of deference in the cockpit, where human factors engineers learned and taught, and the FAA adopted, the idea that you have to have a system of checks and balances in the cockpit.

A co-pilot might notice something of imminent danger that the pilot did not notice, and it’s necessary to call that out complete deference is not afforded to the pilot in command. Whereas the FAA mandated that and has a directive in place for crews in the U.S. to have this CRM training, the government in Philippines did not so require.

Asian countries have a storied past with deficiencies in CRM, because it’s a clash with Asian culture, with deference to seniors.

For example, there was a Singapore Air crash in October 2000, on an international flight bound for Los Angeles international flight SQ006 when the crew took off in a typhoon in Taipei. There, none of the crew, even though they knew that it was not an appropriate takeoff, ever checked the action of the pilot in command.

In the Air Philippines case, the pilot was being supervised at the time of the crash by a check airman, meaning a superior on a check ride, and the check airman was one whose actions were not countered by a lower pilot, so we knew there were issues of CRM training.

Chicago Lawyer: How can the lessor be held liable for the crew’s training?

Nolan: AAR never checked to see what the standards were in the Philippines, and just presumed the Philippines would be following the FAA standard, when, in fact, they were not. So, under negligent entrustment law, which deals with what someone knew and should have known [they could be held liable].

Chicago Lawyer: And your negligent entrustment theory also relates to maintenance?

Nolan: This airplane was taken off the desert floor by AAR. It was purchased from Southwest Airlines, which is a high-mileage operating fleet, and this was a [22-year-old] airplane. Southwest Airlines is high-cycle, high-time. They really work their airplanes. Southwest made a decision somewhere along the line not to continue with that airplane a cost-benefit analysis of maintenance, upkeep, and the returns they’re offered on that.

Chicago Lawyer: How much was the lease for?

Nolan: The lease was on a per-month basis. The transactions were seven-figure transactions. I think when the plane crashed they made seven figures just on the insurance. When the plane crashed they had a financial return and a profit on the hull liability clause.

Chicago Lawyer: Who’s responsible for the maintenance?

Nolan: Both the lessor and the lessee. The lessor, having in the lease reserved to itself rights of inspection, and requiring that maintenance and safety be followed under that scenario on a legal basis it can face responsibility for the loss of life. Here, this fleet was not equipped with up-to-date manuals from Boeing.

AAR never ascertained whether Air Philippines was aware of what Boeing’s schedule of maintenance requirements were.

AAR had it checked by a company that makes appraisals, and they were warned that this was going to be a plane that would have problems with maintenance in the future, yet they purchased it because the returns were great.

So there was a cost-benefit analysis conducted in which the financial returns even though it was acknowledged that it was with a start-up airline in a foreign country the returns were higher than normal and, therefore, the financial return warranted the lease.

[Southwest] wrote that off, but Air Philippines takes it because it’s a cheaper acquisition for them. They take that [plane] and AAR knows it has increased maintenance as it goes on, but they never did the review of maintenance facilities and programs of Air Philippines. They didn’t check to see if the maintenance manuals were coordinated or any of those things. The pre-lease inspection said, “You’re going to have ever-increasing maintenance costs, use caution.”

Chicago Lawyer: Can airplanes be brought up to speed after so many miles?

Nolan: There are metal fatigue issues that we commonly deal with. Aging and metal fatigue is a common problem in the commercial aircraft industry, and it’s exacerbated in the situation of aged aircraft.

Metal fatigue issues are especially important when you’ve leased an airplane in an ocean environment like the Philippines, where you have accretion of salt as a corrosive factor, so taking an old airplane like this, not performing maintenance, with old parts, and then exposing it to a salt-water environment is especially difficult.

Chicago Lawyer: You’ve talked about the lack of training and maintenance how does the ground warning issue relate to the crash?

Nolan: When the plane was inspected and leased by AAR and brought to Philippines, the airplane was not equipped with an up-to-date ground proximity warning system, an enhanced ground proximity warning system, which was then available and widely sold to airlines for safety reasons.

Instead, the plane was sold with the original old, outdated ground proximity warning system, which gave much lesser warning to the pilot of impending disaster.

The plane flew into a mountain. It was coming in, there was another plane on the runway, so it had to do a missed approach.

It was circling the airport in inclement weather and flew into a mountain, and that’s precisely why the enhanced ground proximity warning system would have prevented the crash. It would have given a 24-second warning to the crew, at a minimum. They almost avoided the crash they clipped trees but the old system only gave them a few seconds’ warning.

Had this plane been equipped for a few cents more per passenger with an enhanced ground proximity warning system, the plane crash would never have taken place.

Yet AAR elected even though the FAA had set a schedule for incorporating the enhanced ground proximity warning system into the American fleet to place it over in the Philippines when, in fact, the outdated system was not suited for the mountainous regions of Philippines.

We took the deposition of the designer of both systems and he noted that the old system was not designed for that terrain. The enhanced system was available and being employed by other operators.

Chicago Lawyer: What was the spoliation issue?

Nolan: We, through discovery, found that the insurers had hired an insurance adjusting company in Singapore called Air Claims. After we instituted our product liability lawsuit, Air Claims went to the scene of the crash and buried the wreckage in concrete. This was paid for by the insurers. Illinois law recognizes spoliation, so we had a motion for sanctions pending at the time the case settled.

AAR and Fleet, the successor company, now part of Bank of America, both of the defendants knew or had to know that maintenance was not being performed as required on this airplane, and so, certain key elements the component parts of the aircraft, the distance measuring equipment and the altimeter were buried by the insurance company and that prevented us from ever looking at it, even though maintenance records show these parts had been in the shop just days before the occurrence, so that was very critical.

Chicago Lawyer: The settlement works out to about $1.5 million for each of the victims how does that match with other settlements?

Nolan: When Air Philippines first made offers of settlement to Philippine families, they were offering $20,000. Roughly six months after this crash, there was the Singapore Airlines crash. Singapore Airlines immediately offered families $400,000, so we had a disparity in 2000 between what the London market was offering Filipinos and what they were offering other Asian families.

What we’ve seen take place is the globalization of how claims are valued. We have a history of low payments internationally for crashes from the London market which is being challenged, and we have seen from the $20,000 offer to six months later the $400,000 offer, to what this case is in terms of a settlement of $1.5 million per decedent, a trend in international cases that is the beginning of an equalization of how claims are being handled and evaluated.

For that reason alone it’s significant for how London and U.S. insurers are going to assess premiums and approach air disasters in the future. From what I’m told, $165 million is believed to be the largest foreign domestic settlement for Asia.

Chicago Lawyer: Aside from the size of the settlement, what is the significance, if any, of this case?

Nolan: The issue of aged aircraft being sold or leased by American companies to foreign countries is a continuing problem of international dimension, and the problem it creates is not only a disaster, but the problem of foreign countries not having the sophistication or experience to legally resolve the international disputes.

As the American fleet has aged, those planes are being dumped into foreign markets. Those aged aircraft that are recycled for foreign airlines will ultimately have Americans flying on those airplanes in domestic situations. This is a problem aged aircraft are not only a problem in the U.S., but it’s magnified when those products are brought to a foreign country not equipped to handle the loss.

When those old airplanes crash in foreign countries, they represent the worst aviation tragedy those countries have ever faced the greatest loss of life.

On an increasing basis people are turning to courts in the U.S.; they are looking to the U.S. for the sophistication of our legal system because they are not equipped by law and precedent to attend to cases of the magnitude of an air crash disaster. Many of their laws are outdated and have not dealt with mass torts.

When you have a truly international setting, the forum of the U.S. is something they look to because we have experience in resolving mass disasters and sophisticated international tort claims. The Circuit Court of Cook County has become a leader in handling those claims, through the efforts of Law Division Judge [William] Maddux.

When Boeing moved to Chicago, it brought international focus to this courthouse for claims involving Boeing aircraft, which are in fleets worldwide. Judge Maddux has supervised a number of lawsuits with complexities unique to air disasters which have come from these foreign crashes.

Air Philippines represents one of those foreign cases. The suit was originally brought in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the defendants appealed the ruling of Judge Kathy Flanagan that this was a convenient forum, and the case came back down, where it was ultimately settled before Judge Jennifer Duncan-Brice.

There are international aspects to it with respect to how claims are resolved. It has importance for American leasing companies as a precedent because American leasing companies view the leasing of commercial aircraft the aged American fleet as in part a financial transaction and yet, a company like AAR, which is international as well, provides other services. It’s a leader in the industry.

We have in this case a clashing of reviewing product liability and leasing law from a legal standpoint, and how that interfaces with the financial leasing industry, and what obligations exist for a finance company that turns to leasing of aircraft. Our product liability law and negligence law for negligent entrustment view responsibility differently from how financial companies historically have looked at these issues.

The importance of the case was reflected by how London views the results of the case.

The London and American insurers are reviewing this case because, historically, premiums were assessed to lessors in a different, lesser capacity than as to airlines, so this case was closely watched by insurance markets to see how it would be resolved.

Chicago Lawyer: Beyond the insurance issues, what do you think is the broader significance of the case?

Nolan: We believe this case is significant because insurers, lessors, and operators will focus more on safety and prevention when entering into transactions than they had in the past. We also believe that there will be more safety audits conducted by lessors of operators to whom they intend to lease, and the requirements for keeping with FAA standards will more likely take place.

In this instance, there was no safety audit conducted by AAR or Fleet of Air Philippines prior to the crash to know what their own safety practices were, and never any safety audits to determine whether Air Philippines was meeting FAA standards.

As globalization takes place, this case will be one that’s considered in requiring the safety audits that are common practice in U.S. airlines. I think this case will help in terms of globalizing safety for domestic foreign routes. Hopefully, cases like this will help to increase safety.

Suit alleges Baxter’s heparin killed wife

Baxter International Inc. faces a growing number of lawsuits from families who blame the company’s blood-thinning drug heparin for deaths of loved ones. Heparin was used by millions of people to prevent blood clots during dialysis and other medical procedures.

The latest wrongful death suit was filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court by the widower of an Iowa woman who died at home during kidney dialysis Nov. 30. Mark Scott of Davenport accuses Baxter of selling defective heparin that caused her death.His wife, Melissa Scott, 53, began experiencing nausea and vomiting after treatment began in August, said Tom Ellis, a spokesman of the Nolan Law Group in Chicago

Chicago, which brought the suit on behalf of Mark Scott. On Nov. 30, Ellis said, an allergic reaction to the heparin caused Scott to fall and as a result disconnect from the machine. Mark Scott found his wife on the floor after she called out to him during a treatment. The death certificate said death was caused by an air embolism in the heart, Ellis said. An autopsy was not performed.”Mark wants to know for sure what happened to his wife,” Ellis said. “His wife was well trained on the dialysis machine.”

A Baxter spokeswoman said the company had not yet seen the Scott suit and declined to comment on its specific allegations. But she said the company is aware of at least four other wrongful death suits in the

U.S.
U.S.

“No patient deaths have been confirmed by medical or epidemiological evaluation by Baxter or [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to have been caused by the allergic-type reactions associated with the current heparin recall,” said Baxter spokeswoman Erin Gardiner. “None of these suits includes any credible medical information to allow the company to medically evaluate these claims.”The Deerfield-based company also is defending at least five suits brought by patients who allege they were harmed by tainted heparin.

The FDA is investigating whether heparin is connected to as many as 19 deaths and more than 700 serious illnesses since

Jan. 1, 2007
. Baxter insists that four deaths so far may be connected to adverse reactions to heparin.Baxter recalled the drug in February after a spike in severe allergic reactions in patients. Further investigation revealed a significant amount of an unidentified foreign substance contaminated batches of heparin.

The suspect active ingredient originated at a

Changzhou, China, plant owned by Scientific Protein Laboratories, a Baxter supplier based in Waunakee, Wis. Last month the FDA disclosed that low-cost animal cartilage made its way into Baxter’s heparin but has not determined a specific link to allergic reactions.
Changzhou, China, plant owned by Scientific Protein Laboratories, a Baxter supplier based in Waunakee, Wis. Last month the FDA disclosed that low-cost animal cartilage made its way into Baxter’s heparin but has not determined a specific link to allergic reactions.

Insurers Settle Lawsuits over Philippines Crash for $165M

Insurance companies have agreed to pay $165 million (euro104.63 million) to settle lawsuits brought by relatives of those killed in a 2000 plane crash in the Philippines, lawyers for the families said.

The families of about 100 of the 131 people killed in the crash sued the American companies that owned the plane and leased it to Air Philippines accusing them of providing a worn-out plane in need of constant maintenance that the airline was incapable or unwilling to do.

The case, filed in state court in Chicago, was scheduled for trial in September but was settled in late February by Air Philippines’ insurers, who negotiated on behalf of the plane’s suppliers. Neither the American companies, Air Philippines nor the insurers admitted responsibility.

Donald J. Nolan, whose Chicago law firm took the lead in the case, said the amount of the settlement will improve safety in developing countries, where carriers often buy aging aircraft no longer wanted by U.S. airlines.

Nolan said after legal fees of about one-third the award, families will get on average more than $1 million (euro630,000) each. The judge must still approve disbursements from a trust fund to individual families, which will receive varying awards.

The lawyer said Air Philippines offered families about $20,000 (euro12,682) each.

The Air Philippines Boeing 737 that crashed was made in 1978 and operated for 20 years by Southwest Airlines Co., which faces a $10.2 million (euro6.47 million) fine by U.S. regulators for flying 737s without making required inspections for cracks in the fuselages.

Lawyers said the plane had cracks and a faulty altimeter when it was delivered to Air Philippines, but they did not sue Southwest because it had no role in selling the jet to the foreign carrier.

The plane was purchased in 1998 by AAR Corp., an Illinois-based company that sells aircraft parts and leases planes to some of the world’s largest carriers. AAR leased the plane to Air Philippines and then sold the plane and the lease to Fleet Business Credit Corp., which is now a subsidiary of Bank of America Corp.

AAR “did some cosmetic work, didn’t do a (heavy-maintenance) ‘D’ check … and shipped it out to the Philippines,” said Gerald C. Sterns, an aviation lawyer in Oakland, Calif., who also represented some of the families. “They are in the business of providing cheap aircraft to lease.”

In 1999, AAR obtained an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration judging the planes sound enough to export to that country.

While on a commuter flight from Manila to Davao in the Philippines in April 2000, the plane crashed into the side of a hill as the pilot made a second attempt to land on the runway. All 124 passengers and seven crew members were killed.

A commission appointed by the president of the Philippines blamed the crash on pilot error and found no evidence of mechanical failure. But lawyers for the families said no one will ever know what caused the crash because parts of the mangled plane were dumped in a pit and buried in concrete before they could be examined by independent experts.

David P. Storch, the chairman and chief executive of AAR, said the burial of the plane probably played a role in the insurance companies’ decision to settle. “I believe they felt they had a problem with what the Philippines authorities had done with the aircraft,” he said.

But Storch defended his company’s overhaul of the plane and the lease to Air Philippines.

“We delivered a very good aircraft in good working condition to a very good airline,” he said. “Unfortunately, this aircraft had an accident because the pilot got in some clouds and got disoriented.”

Gary W. Westerberg, a lawyer for the London insurers, said his clients settled because of court rulings that AAR and Fleet controlled documents, witnesses and disposal of the wreckage. The companies also failed in an effort to try the lawsuits in the Philippines.

Nolan and Sterns said companies such as AAR that buy planes and lease them to foreign airlines will face higher insurance premiums as a result of the settlement.

But Storch, the AAR chief executive, said the settlement won’t have any financial impact on his company, which he said was indemnified for its costs by Air Philippines’ insurers. He also said the case will not deter AAR from leasing planes to customers that include British Airways, UAL Corp.’s United Airlines and Continental Airlines Inc.

“We have an impeccable safety record,” Storch said.

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