Transport: aviation and air travel - litigation in United States

Arnold & Porter

Arnold & Porter handles complex litigation, mass torts, product liability, and trade secret matters in the aviation arena. The team is particularly noted for its experience in litigation relating to aviation crisis incidents. In this context, Thad Dameris represented Airbus in consolidated litigation brought on behalf of 179 plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois arising from a mid-air upset involving Qantas Airways Flight 72. Dameris also represented Fairchild Controls Corporation in claims of personal injury alleged to be caused as a result of exposure to ‘bleed air’ that was alleged to be contaminated with harmful chemicals. Christopher Odell and David Weiner in Washington DC are also key figures. Dameris, Washington DC-based Kenneth Chernof and James Herschlein in New York jointly head the team. Named lawyers are based in Houston unless otherwise indicated.

Condon & Forsyth LLP

Praised for its ‘practical approach’, specialist aviation firm Condon & Forsyth LLP handles a range of mass tort, product liability, insurance and class action litigation cases and is regularly instructed to defend airlines in aviation accident litigation and investigations. John Maggio in Miami, who is praised for his ‘even-tempered and logical approach in even the most challenging situations’, is representing the Kalitta companies in claims arising from a Dynamic International Airways engine fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2015, which resulted in 80 alleged passenger injuries. Elsewhere, Anthony Battista is representing Iberia Airlines in a case which involved a passenger who was not wearing a seat belt and was injured when an aircraft encountered severe turbulence; and Bartholomew Banino continues to represent TACA International Airlines on all claims and litigation arising out of the crash of an aircraft in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Christopher Christensen, Los Angeles office head Scott CunninghamJennifer Johnston (Los Angeles), Stephen StegichJonathan DeMay and Diana Gurfel Shapiro are also key figures, as is Allison Surcouf, who has ‘the remarkable ability to translate complex matters of law and case-scenarios into user-friendly and immediately applicable advice’. Named lawyers are located in the firm’s New York office unless otherwise indicated.

Jones Day

Jones Day’s aviation litigation practice operates across its US and international network of offices and thus is ideally placed to advise on international disputes in the sector. The team is experienced in defending commercial airline disaster litigation, general aviation accident disputes, litigation involving aviation supply contracts and service agreements, labor matters, and insurance coverage and ground-handling disputes. Matthew Kairis, who is based across the firm's Dallas and Houston offices, represented The Boeing Company in a trade secrets case brought by a Canadian aerospace company involving the development of a military marine surveillance aircraft and its planned use of aircraft for classified projects with the US Government. Joshua Fuchs in Houston represents Air Evac EMS, an air ambulance carrier, in federal lawsuits against Texas and other state officials who administer the states' workers compensation and public employee health insurance systems. Pittsburgh-based practice head John Goetz (‘first-rate’) and Matthew Papez in Washington DC are also recommended, as are of counsels Stephen Cowen in Detroit and Dean Griffith in Washington DC.

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP has experience with product liability disputes in the aviation sector, but is perhaps best known for its experience in defending airlines and insurers in aviation mass disasters. The team benefits from an international network of lawyers and regularly handles cross-border cases. Aviation group head Andrew Harakas in New York has ‘a level of experience that makes clients feel very secure when facing any type of litigation’; he represented Etihad Airways in a personal damages claim involving a passenger stuck by a needle in the seat pocket during an international flight. New York-based Jeffrey Ellis is representing United Airlines in litigation arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and also represented Consumer Technology Association and AUVSI in the first case in the US addressing the right of states and municipalities to regulate, restrict and/or prohibit drone use. Elsewhere, Christopher Carlsen in New York represented AVCO Corporation in a design defect product liability law suit. Other key figures include Miami-based Thompson Thornton, Los Angeles-based senior associate Natasha Mikha and Kevin Sutherland, who is based across the firm’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices.

Nixon Peabody LLP

Nixon Peabody LLP regularly handles NTSB, FAA and foreign accident investigations, public hearings and regulatory inquiries; helicopter crash cases are a key area of expertise. Aviation practice head Joseph Ortego represented Airbus Group in a case involving a helicopter operated by Air Methods Corp, which crashed shortly after take-off from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado. Further, Ortego and San Francisco-based Brian Dalrymple are representing Socata and Socata North America in serious personal injury claims arising from the crash of a TBM-700 turbo-prop aircraft in the state of Georgia; and William Robinson in Los Angeles defended Eurocopter in multiple wrongful death and hull subrogation claims arising from the crash of a helicopter transporting its owner and his family. Another key figure is Thomas Mealiffe in Long Island. Named individuals are based in New York unless otherwise stated.

O'Melveny & Myers LLP

O'Melveny & Myers LLP is instructed by aviation clients on a range of labor and employment disputes. Robert Siegel in Los Angeles, who is co-chair of the aviation group, won a full dismissal on behalf of American Airlines in a putative class action involving a long-running seniority dispute between pilots formerly employed by America West and pilots formerly employed by US Airways prior to the 2005 merger of US Airways and America West. Siegel also represented American Airlines in claims brought by a putative class of nearly 10,000 legacy American pilots alleging a violation of the McCaskill Bond Amendment to the Federal Aviation Act; the case was dismissed and the dismissal was affirmed by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Antitrust and competition co-chair, Ben Bradshaw in Washington DC also handles aviation sector matters. Other key figures include counsel Tristan Morales and Aparna Joshi in Washington DC, Adam KohSweeney in San Francisco and Mark Robertson in New York.

Reed Smith LLP

At Reed Smith LLP, product liability lawyer Patrick Bradley in Princeton heads the aviation litigation group and represents aircraft and component parts manufacturers, aircraft maintenance facilities and pilots in high-profile aircraft accident cases. Oliver Beiersdorf in New York has experience defending aerospace industry manufacturers and airlines in breach of contract, property damage, personal injury and wrongful death actions across the US.

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP houses ‘very knowledgeable aviation attorneys’, who are commended for their ‘understanding of the rules and regulations of the industry’. The team covers major accident litigation, product liability claims, insurance disputes and regulatory challenges, as well as airline passenger, baggage, and cargo claims. Counsel Jonathan Stern in Washington DC and Stephen Shapiro in Philadelphia are representing Southwest Airlines in a case concerning the catastrophic engine failure, depressurization and the emergency landing of Southwest Flight 1380 in April 2018. Barry Alexander, who is based across the Philadelphia and New York offices, jointly heads the team with Robert Williams, who operates between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Alexander is representing Great American Insurance Company in coverage litigation arising out of a 2015 plane crash on the film set of the movie American Made; the crash left two men dead and one paralyzed. Also recommended is Philadelphia-based Denny Shupe, who is ‘very active in aviation law and understands how the law will be applied in your case and in your venue’.

Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is experienced in representing aviation-sector clients in administrative and commercial disputes. Regulatory matters and aviation accidents are also key areas of expertise. Dane Jaques is representing Swissport in litigation arising from an accident that occurred in property owned by The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; he is also acting for a major aerospace manufacturer in claims arising from the malfunction of an airborne missile defence platform. TAP Portugal and Japan Airlines are also clients. David Coburn, William Karas and Carol Gosain are other names to note in the Washington DC-based team.