Aviation and Space Cases

Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews’s broad experience includes acting as national claims counsel for many airlines such as Federal Express and Alitalia Airlines and for many other industry participants. Our experience is partially exemplified by our role as lead counsel in the following aviation and aerospace related matters:

Afriqiyah Loss in Tripoli, Libya on May 12, 2010
The Firm has been appointed to defend Afriqiyah Airways with respect to litigation commenced in the United States following the 2010 loss of an Airbus A330 aircraft in Tripoli, Libya.
Airblue Loss Near Islamabad, Pakistan on July 28, 2010
The Firm has been appointed to represent Airblue Ltd. with respect to all claims against Airblue in the United States arising from the crash of an Airbus A321 in Pakistan. The domestic flight was operated by Airblue and the accident reportedly occurred during an attempt to land at Benazir Bhutto International Airport after a flight from Karachi, Pakistan.
Air France AF 447 Accident over Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009
The Firm was appointed to defend Thales Avionics, S.A. in connection with the crash of an Airbus A330 operated by Air France as AF 447 while enroute from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. The aircraft was reportedly equipped with pitot probes manufactured by Thales Avionics.
Centurion Air Cargo Flight 164 Loss at Bogotá, Colombia
The Firm has been appointed to represent Centurion Air Cargo with respect to all cargo claims emanating from the loss of a Kalitta Air 747-200 at Bogotá, Colombia on July 7, 2008. The Centurion Air Cargo flight, operated by Kalitta Air under a wet lease, crashed after takeoff from Bogotá’s El Dorado International Airport.
Atlasjet International Airways Crash at Isparta, Turkey on November 30, 2007
The Firm has been instructed by Reinsurers and Insurers of Atlasjet International Airways in connection with the crash of Atlasjet International Airways at Isparta, Turkey. The Atlasjet MD-83 crashed, November 30, 2007, eighteen kilometers from its destination at Isparta Süleyman Demirel Airport resulting in fifty-seven fatalities. The firm has been asked to defend against claims brought in the U.S. against Atlasjet or other parties who may be covered by the Atlasjet policy.
Adam Air Flight 574 Crash Near Sulawesi, Indonesia on January 1, 2007
The Firm was appointed by the London Market to defend any claims in the U.S. against Adam Air or other parties potentially covered by the Adam Air insurance policy. Adam Air’s Boeing 737-400 disappeared into the Java Sea off the west coast of Sulawesi during a tropical storm. All 102 passengers were presumed dead. The firm provided strategic advice to Adam Air, damages analysis, and prepared releases taken in Indonesia to meet the requirements of U.S. jurisdictions.
Mandala Airlines Flight 91 Crash at Medan, Indonesia on September 5, 2005
The Firm was appointed by the London Market to defend any claims in the U.S. against Mandala Air or other parties potentially covered by the Mandala Air insurance policy. The Mandala Air Boeing 737-200 crashed into a heavily populated area within seconds after takeoff from Polonia International Airport in Medan, Indonesia. The crash resulted in 101 passenger fatalities and thirty-nine fatalities to persons on the ground. The firm provided strategic advice to Mandala Air, damages analysis, and prepared releases taken in Indonesia to meet the requirements of U.S. jurisdictions.
United Airlines Flight 232 Crash in Sioux City, Iowa
We represented United Airlines in connection with the crash of its DC-10 aircraft on July 19, 1989. The DC-10 experienced an in-flight uncontained loss of the fan blade from the No. 2 engine which caused the aircraft to experience a total hydraulic failure (including redundancy systems). There were 296 souls on board. We assisted United Airlines in connection with the NTSB investigation and the preparation of its NTSB submission. We represented United in all post-crash litigation, which involved 112 wrongful death claims and 184 bodily injury cases which were filed in thirty-six state and federal jurisdictions. We acted as lead counsel on behalf of all defendants in the passenger damage lawsuits, taking and defending over 1,000 depositions. Among the myriad of unique issues presented by this case was the development of the law involving Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) claims evolving from an aircraft crash in light of the 184 individuals who survived the 44 minute descent and crash.
In-Flight Fire of FedEx DC-10-10F Aircraft Terminating with Emergency Landing at Newburgh, New York
We represented Federal Express in conjunction with the constructive total loss (“CTL”) of its DC-10-10F aircraft which experienced an in-flight fire on September 6, 1996, while en route from Memphis to Boston. The FedEx flight crew detected a cargo cabin fire while cruising at 33,000 feet; they declared an emergency, diverted to the nearest airport (Stewart International in Newburgh, New York) executed an emergency descent and landed the aircraft only 19 minutes after initial smoke detection. The flight crew escaped down the cockpit window rope unharmed, but the DC-10 was consumed by fire and was a CTL. We represented FedEx in conjunction with the NTSB investigation into the event, the post-event environmental remediation, and with approximately 3,000 cargo and property damage claims evolving from the event. While the NTSB ultimately determined that the fire was a “cargo cabin fire of undetermined origin,” our independent investigation identified undeclared hazardous materials inside a cargo container as the likely cause of the fire. We initiated a subrogation action on behalf of FedEx’s insurers and ultimately recovered over 90% of the fair market value of the aircraft from the shipper.
Crash of FedEx MD-11 at Newark International Airport
We represented FedEx in connection with the total loss of an MD-11 aircraft which crash landed at Newark International Airport in the early morning hours of July 31, 1997. The right wing and right main landing gear separated from the aircraft shortly after touchdown. The MD-11 rolled to its right, flipped, and slid inverted down the runway. The aircraft was consumed by fire and all cargo aboard was destroyed. The crew and jumpseaters were able to unbuckle themselves from their upside position and escape through the cockpit window. We represented FedEx in connection with the NTSB investigation and hearings, the environmental cleanup and salvage operations, as well as counseling and defending FedEx in connection with the thousands of cargo claims evolving from the event. We also represented FedEx in connection with property damage lawsuits brought by local airport authorities. We successfully represented FedEx’s insurers in a subrogation lawsuit against Boeing in connection with Boeing’s representations regarding the MD-11 landing gear and the stability and control characteristics of the MD-11.
The Failure of the Palapa B-2 and Westar VI Satellites
Following a February 1984 satellite launch mission, two telecommunications satellites were deployed by NASA’s space shuttle into what was ultimately determined to be a useless earth orbit. One satellite was owned by Western Union (Westar VI) and the second satellite was owned by the government of Indonesia (Palapa B-2). We represented Morton Thiokol, Inc., the manufacturer of the satellite’s rocket motors in negligence actions brought by insurers to recover the multimillion dollar cost of the lost satellites.
Following a six month jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, the jury found that Morton Thiokol had acted reasonably in view of the state of the art of the rocket motor technology (specifically the exit cone) at that time, and the jury returned a complete defense verdict. This was the first case taken to verdict in a case regarding a loss which occurred in outer space. This landmark result was affirmed on appeal.
The Space Shuttle Challenger Cases
We were retained on behalf of Morton Thiokol, Inc. to defend the wrongful death claims evolving from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January, 1986. Lawsuits were filed in various jurisdictions across the country on behalf of the astronauts’ families and school teacher Krista McAuliffe. Each case was litigated and ultimately resolved prior to trial on a favorable and confidential basis.
China Airlines Flight 642 Crash at Hong Kong International Airport
We represented China Airlines in connection with the total loss of an MD-11 aircraft which crash landed at Hong Kong International Airport on August 22, 1999. The accident, which killed three passengers and injured scores of others, was investigated by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (CAD). The Firm’s representation included working with the Hong Kong CAD’s accident reconstruction witnesses with regard to issues of aircraft stability and landing gear design. We successfully represented China Airlines’ insurers in a subrogation action against Boeing in connection with these issues.
General Counsel for Alitalia Airlines

The Firm’s attorneys have acted as outside General Counsel for Alitalia Airlines, the flag carrier of the Republic of Italy, in the United States for over two decades. During such time, we have handled hundreds of legal matters for the airline, including the following:

Passenger Claims

We successfully defended Alitalia’s interests in connection with a wrongful death claim brought in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut by the family of a passenger who suffered a sudden heart attack while en route from Boston to Milan on March 2, 2001. The plaintiffs argued that the crew’s inattention prevented the passenger from receiving emergency medical care which would have saved his life.

We represented Alitalia in a wrongful death claim brought by the parents of a young woman, who died as the result of an asthmatic attack while en route from Milan to New York on January 31, 2000. The Firm resolved the matter without any payment from Alitalia.

The Firm represented Alitalia in two seminal decisions involving the Air Carrier Access Act by successfully obtaining summary judgment and dismissal of each case, brought by disabled passengers who alleged discrimination in obtaining appropriate seating on board Alitalia aircraft. See DeGirolamo v. Alitalia, 159 F.Supp2d 764 (D.N.J. 2001), and Waters v. Alitalia, 128 F.Supp2d 340 (D.N.J. 2001).

The Firm’s attorneys obtained dismissal of a personal injury action brought against Alitalia for injuries allegedly sustained by passenger boarding an Alitalia aircraft in Italy. This is a seminal case involving jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. See Erickson v. Alitalia, 1991 WL 117797 (D.N.J. 1991).

Cargo Claims

The Firm regularly defends Alitalia in courts throughout the United States in connection with cargo losses, damage claims and suits, brought by freight forwarders, shippers and consignors/consignees.

Antitrust Claims

We successfully defended Alitalia against an antitrust case brought by domestic travel agents, who sought and received class action status certification, for allegedly conspiring with other air carriers to reduce, and eventually eliminate, travel agent commissions.

The Firm successfully defended Alitalia against an antitrust case brought by a class of passengers, who claimed that Alitalia conspired with other air carriers to deny passengers refunds of refundable portions of restricted tickets, such as those portions collected for government fees and taxes.

Fine Airlines Flight 101 Crash at Miami International Airport on August 7, 1997
A Fine Airlines DC-8-67F aircraft crashed shortly after take off from Miami International Airport on August 7, 1997. The aircraft crashed into a nearby industrial park killing five individuals and causing scores of property damage and business interruption claims to be asserted against the airline. We represented Fine with regard to site cleanup, environmental remediation and advised airline management with regard to interaction with local authorities and the NTSB. We also defended Fine in all litigation evolving from the incident, including wrongful death claims, cargo losses, and property damage and business interruption claims.
Taxiway Collision between FedEx MD-11 and Burlington DC-8 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
On February 27, 1997, a FedEx MD-11 aircraft collided with a Burlington Air Express DC-8-63F aircraft on a taxiway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport which caused property damage to both aircraft. We defended FedEx against BAX’s property damage and loss of use claims. Ultimately, we settled Burlington’s property damage claims, and we initiated a third-party action against the ground handling company that had improperly parked the DC-8 with its tail encroaching on the taxiway. We tried this case to verdict in favor of FedEx in Federal District Court in Minneapolis and recovered the funds expended to settle the underlying property damage claim.
United Airlines Flight 585 Crash of B-737 in Colorado Springs, Colorado
We represented United Airlines in connection with the crash of its B-737 aircraft on March 3, 1991, near Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Firm advised airline management regarding its interaction with the NTSB, environmental agencies and local authorities as well as defending the airline in the twenty-seven wrongful death suits evolving from the event.
Northwest 255 Crash at Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed shortly after take-off from Detroit Metropolitan Airport on August 16, 1987, resulting in the death of 160 people. Before impacting the earth, the Northwest MD-80 aircraft struck a light pole erected in the parking lot of the National Car Rental facility adjacent to the airport. Northwest Airlines filed a third-party action against National Car Rental alleging that the light pole was too high and that it was the cause of the crash. The Firm successfully defended National Car Rental through years of federal multi-district litigation and appeals. National Car Rental paid nothing on Northwest Airlines’ third-party complaint and made no payments whatsoever to the $300 million in passenger settlements evolving from the event.
Air France Concorde Flight No. 4590 Crash at Gonesse, France
The Firm’s attorneys represented Goodyear Tire & Rubber with respect to all claims arising from the crash of Air France Concorde Flight No. 4590 at Gonesse, France on July 25, 2000, which resulted in the deaths of all 113 on board. We coordinated a team of experts retained to defend the design and integrity of the Goodyear aircraft tire, which was sliced by a stray piece of metal left on the runway by a previously departed aircraft, as well as to investigate possible defects in Concorde aircraft’s fuel tank/wing system. We participated in providing data and design documentation to French authorities, and responding to NTSB inquiries.
Executive Airlines Jetstream 31 Crash at Bear Creek, Pennsylvania
The Firm’s attorneys represented Executive Airlines with respect to all claims arising from the crash of an Executive Airlines Jetstream 31 aircraft at Bear Creek, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2000, which resulted in the deaths of 19 passengers and crew. We coordinated an extensive team of experts, including accident reconstruction experts, metallurgists, pilot experts, ATC experts, aircraft and systems design experts and psychiatric experts (with respect to fear of impending death claims). We had extensive involvement in assisting the carrier with all aspects of the NTSB investigation.
Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA)
Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews has represented Atlantic Coast Airlines in connection with several incidents, including one involving an ACA Bombardier RJ aircraft which collided with a ground service vehicle on the ramp at O’Hare International Airport. We obtained a recovery for ACA for the damage to its aircraft in connection with this incident. A second notable incident involved a lawsuit against the Bloomington-Normal Airport regarding runway conditions which led to the collapse of the nose gear on a Bombardier CRJ-200 ER aircraft.
Alitalia Airlines B-747 Airport Collision with Hudson General Truck at Logan International Airport
We represented Alitalia Airlines in connection with a February 24, 1994 incident at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, wherein a Hudson General vehicle struck an engine on an Alitalia B-747 aircraft while the Hudson General crew was in the process of de-icing the aircraft. As a result of the strike, the aircraft sustained damage to an engine and Alitalia was forced to cancel its flight to Rome, Italy, thereby stranding its passengers at Logan. Alitalia incurred various direct expenses as a result of the aforementioned strike, including the costs of repairs to the B-747 aircraft, lease of a substitute aircraft from Tower Air, diminution in value to the subsequently repaired B-747 and for loss of its use during the repair time. We presented Alitalia’s claims to Hudson General, which declined to pay based upon the terms of the ground handling agreement. Thereafter, we filed a petition for arbitration and ultimately recovered both Alitalia’s hard damages and consequential losses evolving from the incident.
Crash of US Airways Flight 427 Near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
A US Airways Boeing 737-300 aircraft crashed on September 8, 1994 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There were 132 souls on board. The Firm represented the Monsanto Company in the wrongful death actions evolving from that event.
Crash of Express Airlines Jetstream 31 on December 1, 1993, near Hibbing, Minnesota
The Firm participated in the defense of Express Airlines following the crash of a Jetstream 31 aircraft near Hibbing, Minnesota on December 1, 1993 which resulted in the deaths of all 16 passengers and crew.
Cielos Airlines DC-10-30F Loss at Barranquilla, Colombia
The Firm currently represents Cielos Airlines in connection with its loss of its DC-10-30F aircraft in Barranquilla, Colombia on November 17, 2006. We are assisting Cielos with post-accident cleanup, investigation, and responding to bodily injury, property damage and cargo claims.
Spanair Hard Landing at Liverpool, England
We represented Spanair in connection with the hard landing of its MD-83 aircraft at Liverpool Airport, Liverpool, England, on March 1, 2001. The hard landing caused the main landing gear to collapse at touchdown, causing serious damage to the aircraft. We worked with the airline to recover damages for the loss of use of the aircraft and repair costs to the main landing gear.
Taxiway Accident Involving the Collision of a Polar Air B-747 Aircraft and Fuel Truck at JFK International Airport
We represented Polar Air Cargo in a taxiing incident involving its B-747 aircraft. The 747 was taxied by a Polar employee who struck a parked fuel truck operated by Ogden Fuel Services. We represented Polar in conjunction with its substantial property damage claim evolving from the event. The investigation revealed that the fuel truck, while stationary, was improperly parked. Normally, when there is a collision at an airport between a moving vehicle and a stationary vehicle, the moving vehicle will bear all or substantially all of the fault. We tried this case to verdict in New York State Court and obtained a 40% allocation of fault against Ogden.
Garuda Flight 421 Crash into the Solo River, Indonesia
The Firm represents P.T. Garuda Indonesia in litigation in the United States evolving from the emergency landing of Garuda Flight 421, a 737-300 aircraft, into the Solo River in Indonesia on July 16, 2002. Forty-six passengers brought suit against Boeing and CFM in the United States alleging various personal injuries. Boeing and CFM brought a third-party complaint against Garuda. The Firm defended Garuda on the basis of the forum non conveniens doctrine and all the third party complaints were dismissed by the trial court.
Crash of TAME B-737-200 at Bogotá, Colombia
The Firm’s attorneys acted as lead counsel on behalf of TAME, the Airline of Ecuador, with respect to all claims arising from the crash of TAME’s B-727-200 aircraft at Bogotá, Colombia on April 20, 1998, resulting in the deaths of 54 passengers and crew. We coordinated a team of pilot and ATC experts in an extensive arbitration before a three-judge panel in Geneva, Switzerland and London, England, and in a subrogation action filed in Bogotá. We orchestrated flight simulator sessions and prepared a detailed ATC presentation to the Arbitration Panel in connection with defense of TAME.
Crash of Pilatus Porter PC-6 Aircraft at Puerto Inirida, Colombia
We defended Servicio de Aeronavegación a Territorios Nacionales (“SATENA”) with respect to the crash of Pilatus Porter PC-6 aircraft at Puerto Inirida, Colombia on August 29, 1997, which resulted in the deaths of nine passengers and crew.
Crash of Czech Let-410 Turboprop at Medellin, Colombia
We represent Heliandes (and/or West Caribbean Airways S.A.) (“Heliandes”) with respect to the crash of Czech Let-410 Turboprop at Medellin, Colombia on December 16, 2001, resulting in the deaths of 16 passengers and crew.
Crash of Lear Jet 25 Near Groton, Connecticut
We represented Air East, a Part 135 operator, with respect to the crash of LearJet 25 at Groton, CT on August 4, 2003, which resulted in the deaths of two crew. We had extensive dealings with NTSB investigators regarding this event, including preparation of Air East’s submissions to the NTSB. We also represented the operator with regard to interacting with FAA officials in connection with a post-crash Certificate Action.
Malaysian Airlines B-777 Event at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Firm represented Malaysian Airlines in connection with its attempt to recover its damages evolving from the in-flight failure of the anti-icing system on its B-777 aircraft on May 1, 2002. The anti-icing system failure caused ice to build up around the engine cowling, which then broke off during the aircraft’s decent and was ingested into the aircraft’s engine.
SANSA Flight 1644 Crash into Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
The Firm represented National Accident Insurance Underwriters in connection with the crash of SANSA Flight 1644, a Cessna 208B aircraft, which crashed on August 26, 2000 into the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, killing all ten on board. The crash occurred shortly after the young SANSA pilot agreed to make an unscheduled pass over the volcano at the request of a sightseeing passenger.
Southern Air Transport
The Firm represented Southern Air Transport in a variety of matters, including a land mine explosion in the Sudan which injured the crew of Southern Air Transport B-747.
Mandala Airlines Crash of B-737 at Medan, Indonesia
Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews is defending Mandala Airlines as co-counsel in connection with the crash of a B-737 aircraft in Medan, Indonesia, on September 5, 2005, which killed 117 people.
COPA Flight 201 Crash near Tecuti, Panama
The Firm represented Lucas Aerospace in 49 wrongful death claims which resulted from the in-flight disappearance of COPA Flight 201, a B-737 aircraft, near Tecuti, Panama in 1992.
Helicopter Crashes into Gulf of Mexico
We successfully defended a helicopter operator in a case where its helicopter, while en route from Louisiana to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, lost power, autorotated and crashed into the Gulf, resulting in the death or serious injury to all thirteen aboard.