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Product liability, mass tort and class action: aerospace/aviation
Condon & Forsyth LLP’s ‘high-level’ team adopts a ‘personal approach’ to representation and its leading airline defense practice is regularly sought to handle aviation accident litigation and investigations. A Los Angeles-based team including Frank Silane, Jennifer Johnston and Scott Cunningham has been representing Asiana Airlines in cases stemming from the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport in 2013. The team’s broad engagement in the aviation industry is evidenced by its wider representation of airlines and manufacturers in commercial litigation spanning wrongful termination of contract, misrepresentation and unfair competition disputes. New York-based Christopher Christensen and Anthony Battista secured dismissals of putative class action suits against five airline carriers concerning compensation under European Union Regulation (EC) No 261, which stipulates the amounts owed to passengers in the event of cancellation or delays, while Stephen Stegich and Jane Sigda continued to represent Embraer in commercial and product liability matters. New York-based Desmond Barry, Bartholomew Banino and of counsel Stephen Fearon are also recommended.
The busy aviation practice at Morrison & Foerster LLP is active in airline accident and product liability litigation, and has expanded its practice to encompass regulatory advice on unmanned aerial systems (UAS); William O’Connor, who divides his time between Los Angeles and San Diego, is a key contact in this regard. O’Connor and San Diego-based practice co-head Don Rushing are defending Honeywell in a wrongful death suit following a Learjet 25 crash which caused the death of all seven occupants including well-known Mexican pop singer Jenni Rivera. The pair was also retained by Earthship Productions in a case concerning an allegedly defective Robinson R44 helicopter. San Diego-based James Huston is co-head of the practice alongside Rushing. Of counsel William Janicki moved to Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP in August 2015.
Perkins Coie LLP’s sizeable team is primarily based in Seattle, and is known for its strong relationships with major manufacturers, which it represents in domestic and international litigation. For key client Boeing, Bruce Campbell and John Dillow secured a significant ruling in the Seventh Circuit in a case surrounding the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport; on the basis of federal admiralty jurisdiction, the lawsuits have been transferred and consolidated as an MDL in the Northern District of California. Military aircraft accident litigation is another area of strength, in which Steve Bell and Michael Scoville are currently representing Boeing in two ongoing cases. VL Woolston and Christian Moller continue to defend Honeywell against claims stemming from aircraft and rotorcraft accidents in the US and abroad. Ronald McIntire is a notable figure in Los Angeles.
Holland & Knight LLP’s aviation litigation capabilities are complemented by the firm’s wider practice handling financial, commercial and regulatory issues in the sector. Key clients include Air France, UPS Airlines and Turkish Airlines, the last of which it has been defending against claims stemming from the crash of Turkish Flight 1951 in Amsterdam in February 2009; Randal Craft and Alan Reitzfeld in New York and Lyndall Lambert in Miami have been handling the pre-suit mediation and settlement conferences. Other recent work includes Washington DC-based Anita Mosner’s representation of Air Methods in a class action concerning billing practices, where Judith Nemsick in New York also had a key role. Other leading figures in the team include co-chair Christopher Kelly in New York and Gary Halbert in Washington DC, who is regularly instructed by manufacturers in air crash investigations.
Jones Day’s ‘very professional’ department remained busy throughout 2015, securing several victories for its aircraft and component manufacturer clients in litigation across the US spanning product defects, consumer fraud and other commercial disputes. A multi-office team including John Goetz in Pittsburgh and Erin Burke in Los Angeles resolved a complex claim regarding the crash of a Pilatus PC-12 Legacy aircraft in Montana in 2009 on favorable terms for client Pilatus Aircraft. Another cross-office collaboration saw Irvine-based John Vogt and Richard Bedell in Cleveland defending Champion Aerospace in a class action lawsuit concerning allegedly defective spark plugs. Former associate Stephanie Taylor recently joined West Virginia University as general counsel.
Nixon Peabody LLP continues to serve a diverse client base of domestic and international airlines, aircraft manufacturers, leasing companies and airports, which turn to it in matters spanning the full remit of aviation litigation from NTSB and FAA investigations to product integrity advice. In an illustration of its trial capabilities, the team successfully represented the manufacturer of a helicopter in a wrongful death and personal injury case in a Texas state court; the team included Joseph Ortego, who divides his time between New York and Long Island, New York-based Eric Strain and Long Island-based Thomas Mealiffe, who made partner in 2016. Other recent highlights include San Francisco-based Brian Dalrymple’s representation of Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority in the investigation into the Reno Air Races accident in 2011.
Operating from offices in New York and Princeton, Reed Smith LLP’s aviation litigation specialists handle cases and investigations across the US for airlines as well as aircraft and component manufacturers. The team continues to defend longstanding client United Airlines in personal injury cases arising from incidents on domestic and international flights, as well as claims stemming from aircraft accidents, where New York-based Oliver Beiersdorf and counsel Sara Kornbluh frequently take lead roles. Cirrus Design Corporation is another active client, which Kornbluh and Patrick Bradley defended in a product liability case concerning the crash of a Cirrus SR22 in Ohio in 2012. All named lawyers are based in Princeton unless otherwise stated.
‘At the tip of the spear in aviation law knowledge and experience’, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP is regarded by clients as being a ‘go-to defense firm’ and a ‘value-plus organization’. Its robust litigation and appellate practice was reinforced by the recruitment of San Francisco-based William Janicki from Morrison & Foerster LLP. The team’s recent work for key client US Airways spans passenger claims in arbitration forums and state and federal courts across the US. On the manufacturing side, Washington DC-based Jonathan Stern was retained to represent Motorola in a liability suit stemming from the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 in the Java Sea in 2014, and Philadelphia-based Denny Shupe and practice chair Robert Williams in Pittsburgh are acting as lead counsel to Rolls-Royce in litigation connected with the crash of a US Army special operations force AH-6M helicopter in Georgia in 2011. New York-based vice-chair of the aviation group Barry Alexander has extensive expertise, which includes insurance and air cargo claims.
Adler Murphy & McQuillen fields a sizeable team with broad experience across the full gamut of aviation litigation, including class action defense and FAA enforcement actions. Past successes include the dismissal of product liability claims against a component manufacturer in a case arising out of a fatal helicopter crash, where Michael McQuillen and Brian Maye had key roles. Tort litigation specialist Mark Susina is another key figure, and serves a large client base of airlines, aircraft component manufacturers and insurers. All partners are based in Chicago.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP’s Thad Dameris is a well-known figure in the aviation sector and acts as lead counsel to Airbus in product liability, tort and commercial disputes. Recent instructions include representing Airbus in consolidated litigation stemming from a mid-air incident involving Qantas Airways Flight 72 and acting for Fairchild Controls Corporation in a personal injury claim in which the team won a motion to dismiss; the case has been transferred to the Southern District of Texas. Dameris is being supported by Washington DC-based product liability and class action expert David Weiner and Christopher Odell, who has experience in state and federal court and arbitration. All partners are based in Houston unless otherwise stated.
The busy aviation department at Bryan Cave LLP continues to receive instructions in product liability, wrongful death and personal injury litigation, and also maintains a buoyant product integrity advisory practice; clients include manufacturers, airports and fixed base operators. Irvine-based Shalem Massey has been representing an aircraft equipment and systems supplier in a property damage case in West Virginia. Recent work for Chicago-based Jeffrey Morof includes acting in multiple cases stemming from high-profile aircraft accidents in the US and internationally. Chicago-based Bruce Duffield is also recommended and has 35 years’ experience in product liability cases and class actions.
Cozen O’Connor is a well-known name in the market, and is particularly noted for its regulatory expertise. The broad aviation practice is instructed by airlines, airports, aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers and aviation insurers. The sizeable team is spread across multiple offices across the country; key names include William Walsh, who co-chairs the practice from Seattle, regulatory experts Donald Kassilke and Mark Atwood in Washington DC and Miami-based trial lawyer Richard Dunn.
Dentons inherited a strong aviation team from McKenna Long & Aldridge following the merger of the two firms and the aviation group continues to represent clients in aircraft accident investigations and litigation. The practice, which is led by Jim Williams , Mark McKinnon and Mark Dombroff, has complementary expertise in corporate, finance, IP and insurance issues in the aviation sector domestically and internationally. Thomas Almy is another key name, and brings to bear 30 years’ experience representing airlines, aircraft and avionics manufacturers and insurers. Dombroff and Dane Jaques lead the unmanned aircraft systems practice, as well as maintaining a wider aviation practice. All partners are based in Tysons, Virginia unless otherwise stated.
Kirkland & Ellis LLP complements its notable aviation bench in Chicago and Washington DC with a broad commercial disputes practice representing aviation industry players across a wide spectrum of cases throughout the US. In the Washington DC office, Matthew Papez and Craig Primis successfully represented Boeing in litigation following the crash of a Boeing 737 in Kazan International Airport in 2013. Delta Air Lines is another key client, on behalf of which the team secured a number of victories in putative class action suits during 2015, including the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking compensation for passengers affected by canceled or delayed flights.
At Paul Hastings LLP, the ‘highly intelligent and very articulate’ Sheila Sundvall has longstanding experience in the aviation sector, and has acted as lead counsel to GE in substantial litigation stemming from aircraft accidents in the US and internationally. Sundvall’s recent successes include representing GE in litigation brought by a cargo airline following an engine incident in Singapore; the team secured the dismissal of all claims in Cook County, Illinois, a decision which was subsequently affirmed on appeal. Associate Christopher Allen is another active member of the team, which is based in Chicago.