Personal Injury

Lieff Cabraser’s Aviation Accident and Air Disaster Cases

Lieff Cabraser’s successful cases on behalf of the victims of airplane accidents and aviation disasters are listed below.

2009 Flash Airlines Boeing 737 Air Disaster

Result: Confidential settlement

Lieff Cabraser represented the families of 122 of the victims of the January 3, 2004 Flash Airlines disaster. All of the 148 passengers and crew were killed when the Flash Airlines charter flight plunged into the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. The passengers on board included entire families, mainly from France, who had been vacationing during the winter holidays at the sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

Lieff Cabraser represented these families alongside European solicitors. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-300 manufactured in 1992 in the United States, was owned by an aircraft leasing company in Los Angeles, and operated pursuant to a lease agreement by an Egyptian charter carrier, Flash Airlines. The case asserted that the air disaster was the result of mechanical failure. In 2009, settlements were achieved for all families.

2006 Gol Airlines Flight 1907 Boeing 737 Accident Lawsuit

Result: Confidential settlement

Barbosa Garcia, et al. v. ExcelAire Service, Inc., and Honeywell International, Inc.

Lieff Cabraser served as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel and represents over twenty families whose loved ones died in the Gol Airlines Flight 1907 crash. On September 29, 2006, a brand-new Boeing 737-800 operated by Brazilian air carrier Gol plunged into the Amazon jungle after colliding with a smaller plane owned by the American company ExcelAire Service, Inc. None of the 149 passengers and six crew members on board the Gol flight survived the accident.

The complaint charged that the pilots of the ExcelAire jet were flying at an incorrect altitude at the time of the collision, failed to operate the jet’s transponder and radio equipment properly, and failed to maintain communication with Brazilian air traffic control in violation of international civil aviation standards. If the pilots of the ExcelAire aircraft had followed these standards, the complaint charged that the collision would not have occurred.

At the time of the collision, the ExcelAire aircraft’s transponder, manufactured by Honeywell, was not functioning. A transponder transmits a plane’s altitude and operates its automatic anti-collision system. The complaint charged that Honeywell shares responsibility for the tragedy because it defectively designed the transponder on the ExcelAire jet, and failed to warn of dangers resulting from foreseeable uses of the transponder.

The cases settled after they were sent to Brazil for prosecution.

2006 Comair CRJ-100 Commuter Flight Accident

Result: Confidential settlement

In re Air Crash at Lexington, Kentucky, August 27, 2006

A Bombardier CRJ-100 commuter plane operated by Comair, Inc., a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, crashed on August 27, 2006 shortly after takeoff at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 47 passengers and two crew members. The aircraft attempted to take off from the wrong runway. The families represented by Lieff Cabraser obtained substantial economic recoveries in a settlement of the case.

2005 Helios Airways Flight 522 Boeing 737 Accident

Result: Confidential settlement

On August 14, 2005, a Boeing 737 operating as Helios Airways flight 522 crashed north of Athens, Greece, resulting in the deaths of all passengers and crew. The aircraft was heading from Larnaca, Cyprus to Athens International Airport when ground controllers lost contact with the pilots, who had radioed in to report problems with the air conditioning system. Press reports about the official investigation indicate that a single switch for the pressurization system on the plane was not properly set by the pilots, and eventually both were rendered unconscious, along with most of the passengers and cabin crew.

Lieff Cabraser represented the families of several victims, and filed complaints alleging that a series of design defects in the Boeing 737-300 contributed to the pilots’ failure to understand the nature of the problems they were facing. Foremost among those defects was a confusing pressurization warning “horn” which uses the same sound that alerts pilots to improper takeoff and landing configurations. The families represented by Lieff Cabraser obtained substantial economic recoveries in a settlement of the case.

2005 Legend Small Plane Crash, Tucson, AZ

Result: Confidential settlement

On November 19, 2005, a single engine “Turbine Legend” kit plane operated by its owner crashed shortly after takeoff from a private airstrip in Tucson, Arizona, killing both the owner/pilot and a passenger. Witnesses report that the aircraft left the narrow runway during the takeoff roll and although the pilot managed to get the plane airborne, it rolled to the left and crashed.

Lieff Cabraser investigated the liability of the pilot and others, including the manufacturer of the kit and the operator of the airport from which the plane took off. The runway was 16 feet narrower than the minimum width recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration. Lieff Cabraser represented the widow of the passenger, and the case was settled on favorable, confidential terms.

2005 Crash of Manhattan Tourist Helicopter

Result: Confidential settlement

On June 14, 2005, a Bell 206 helicopter operated by Helicopter Flight Services, Inc. fell into the East River shortly after taking off for a tourist flight over New York City. The pilot and six passengers were immersed upside-down in the water as the helicopter overturned. Lieff Cabraser represented a passenger on the helicopter and the case was settled on favorable, confidential terms.

2004 Tower Collision of U.S. Army Blackhawk Helicopter

Result: Confidential settlement

Lieff Cabraser represented the family of a pilot who died in the November 29, 2004 crash of a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter. The Black Hawk was flying during the early morning hours at an altitude of approximately 500 feet when it hit cables supporting a 1,700 foot-tall television tower, and subsequently crashed 30 miles south of Waco, Texas, killing both pilots and five passengers, all in active Army service.

The tower warning lights required by government regulations were inoperative. The case was resolved through a successful, confidential settlement.

2004 Flash Airlines Boeing 737 Air Disaster

Result: Settlement

Lieff Cabraser represented the families of 122 of the victims of the January 3, 2004 Flash Airlines disaster. All of the 148 passengers and crew were killed when the Flash Airlines charter flight plunged into the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. The passengers on board included entire families, mainly from France, who had been vacationing during the winter holidays at the sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh.

Lieff Cabraser represented these families alongside European solicitors. The aircraft, a Boeing 737-300 manufactured in 1992 in the United States, was owned by an aircraft leasing company in Los Angeles, and operated pursuant to a lease agreement by an Egyptian charter carrier, Flash Airlines. The case asserted that the air disaster was the result of mechanical failure. In 2009, settlements were achieved for all families.

2003 Air Algérie Boeing 737 Flight 6289 Accident

Result: Confidential settlement

Together with French co-counsel, Lieff Cabraser represented the families of several passengers who died in the March 6, 2003 crash of a Boeing 737 airplane operated by Air Algerie. The aircraft crashed soon after takeoff from the Algerian city of Tamanrasset, after one of the engines failed. All but one of the 97 passengers were killed, along with six crew members. The families represented by Lieff Cabraser obtained economic recoveries in a settlement of the case.

1994 Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines Airbus Disaster

Result: Settlement

Lieff Cabraser represented the families of passengers who were on Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines Flight SU593 that crashed in Siberia on March 23, 1994. The plane was en route from Moscow to Hong Kong. All passengers on board died.

According to a transcript of the cockpit voice recorder, the pilot’s two children entered the cockpit during the flight and took turns flying the plane. The autopilot apparently was inadvertently turned off during this time, and the pilot was unable to remove his son from the captain’s seat in time to avert the plane’s fatal dive.

Lieff Cabraser, alongside French co-counsel, filed suit in France, where Airbus, the plane’s manufacturer, was headquartered. The families Lieff Cabraser represented obtained substantial economic recoveries in settlement of the action.

1989 United Airlines Boeing 747 Disaster

Result: Confidential settlement

Lieff Cabraser served as Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel on behalf of the passengers and families of passengers injured and killed in the United Airlines Boeing 747 cargo door catastrophe near Honolulu, Hawaii on February 24, 1989. Lieff Cabraser organized the litigation of the case, which included claims brought against United Airlines and The Boeing Company.

Among our work, we developed a statistical system for settling the passengers’ and families’ damages claims with certain defendants, and coordinated the prosecution of successful individual damages trials for wrongful death against the non-settling defendants.

1971 German Air Force Lockheed F-104 Star Fighter Litigation

Result: Confidential settlement

In the late 1960s and extending into the early 1970s, the United States sold F-104 Star Fighter jets to the German Air Force that were manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in California. Although the F-104 Star Fighter was designed for high-altitude fighter combat, it was used in Germany and other European countries for low-level bombing and attack training missions.

Consequently, the aircraft had an extremely high crash rate, with over 300 pilots killed. Commencing in 1971, the law firm of Belli Ashe Ellison Choulos & Lieff filed hundreds of lawsuits for wrongful death and other claims on behalf of the widows and surviving children of the pilots.

Robert Lieff continued to prosecute the cases after the formation of our firm. In 1974, the lawsuits were settled with Lockheed on terms favorable to the plaintiffs. This litigation helped establish the principle that citizens of foreign countries could assert claims in United States courts and obtain substantial recoveries against an American manufacturer, based upon airplane accidents or crashes occurring outside the United States.

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