HKM Obtains Unanimous Verdict for Aviation Client

Submitted by HKM Profession… on Tue, 01/21/2020 - 10:31

A Highly Contentious 7-Week Trial Results in No Liability

The trial team of Daniel Haws, J.P. Gatto, Cody Bauer, and Chris Iijima has received a defense verdict in a hotly contested and hard-fought 7-week trial in Maricopa County, Arizona. The case concerned a tragic plane crash that killed the pilot and caused injuries–some severe–to the four passengers. Despite the length of the trial, the 12-person jury deliberated just over four hours before issuing a unanimous decision in favor of our client.

In May 2013, a single-engine aircraft crashed en route from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Guadalajara. All parties agreed that the engine, which was designed and manufactured by our client, lost power in flight.

Plaintiffs Develop Multiple Theories
The plaintiffs filed suit in May 2015, and over the course of more than 4 years of litigation, settled on a multi-pronged theory of their case:

  • the engine failure was due to a defect in the design of the engine; or
  • a component part of the engine was defectively manufactured and failed during the accident flight, resulting in a complete loss of engine power; or
  • the component part was damaged during negligent installation by our client 10 years prior to the accident; or
  • the engine manufacturer failed to issue adequate warnings.

HKM Team Continues to Discredit Ever-Changing Theories
We refuted the allegations and demonstrated that the plaintiffs’ theories were scientifically invalid, lacked evidentiary support, and were otherwise inadequate. We showed that the engine failure was in fact caused by improper piloting or faulty maintenance by other parties, and had nothing to do with the design or manufacture of the engine. We maintained this defense during exhaustive discovery and motion practice, and continued throughout the trial despite the plaintiffs’ attempt to shift and alter their theories seemingly every day.

Despite the efforts of the plaintiffs and their experts, at trial we: 

  • Disproved all of the plaintiffs’ ever-evolving design, manufacturing, and installation defect theories.
  • Showed the plaintiffs’ failure-to-warn claim was meritless.
  • Proved the engine component parts at issue were installed in accordance with FAA-approved procedures.
  • Established there were no other incidents similar to the one at issue, as plaintiffs’ experts alleged.
  • Proved there were inconsistencies with the operation and maintenance of the aircraft.
  • Presented comprehensive and scientific expert testimony to educate and aid the jury in understanding the defense theory and the evidence, which proved the actual cause of the accident was unrelated to the design and manufacture of the engine.

A Favorable Result: Unanimous Defense Verdict
The trial began on November 12, 2019, and concluded on January 13, 2020. More than 35 witnesses were called, including a half dozen experts on all aspects of engine mechanics, operation, and piloting. During closing arguments, the plaintiffs asked the jury for an award ranging from $15,000,000 to $24,000,000. The jury deliberated for just over four hours before returning a unanimous defense verdict—finding no liability on behalf of our client.

HKM commends the trial team for their thoroughness, ingenuity, and outstanding result obtained for our client.

Dan HawsDan Haws focuses his practice on the areas of Aviation LitigationProduct LiabilityCommercial LitigationFinancial Services and Business LitigationInsurance Related Litigation, and Transportation Litigation. He has successfully tried more than 50 jury trials to verdict throughout the Midwest and has handled numerous cases on appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, serving as lead trial counsel on most of the appeals. Dan was elected to the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA. He has an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating in the distinguished legal directory, Martindale-Hubbell®* and has been selected among America's Top 100 Attorneys®, Lifetime Achievement. He has been selected for inclusion in Minnesota Super Lawyers®, 2003-2017 Editions and was also named a "top personal injury lawyer" in defense by Minnesota Law & Politics. Dan is admitted to practice in all state, federal and appellate courts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and the U.S. District Court – District of North Dakota.

John Paul GattoJohn Paul (J.P.) Gatto has significant trial and appellate experience and focuses his practice on the areas of Aviation Litigation, Product Liability Defense, Commercial LitigationConstruction LitigationEnvironmental LitigationInsurance Related Litigation, and Transportation Litigation. J.P. has tried numerous large loss complex cases to verdict in various state and federal courts.  He has represented a wide variety of clients from large corporations, including aviation manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, to small businesses and individuals. J.P. has handled a wide variety of claims including personal injury, warranty disputes, contract claims, claims for lost profit or business income, claims for violations of trade secrets, issues of insurance coverage, and other general litigation matters up to and through trial and any subsequent appeals. He has been selected for inclusion in Minnesota Rising Stars®, 2014-2017 Editions. JP is licensed to practice in the state courts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Minnesota Federal courts and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cody BauerCody Bauer focuses his practice in the areas of, Product Liability Defense, Transportation Litigation, Commercial Litigation, and Insurance Related Litigation. Driven by creative thinking and critical analysis, Cody takes a strategic approach to advance his clients’ position and aligns solutions to meet their goals. Proactive in his ability to understand and interpret clients’ needs, he brings value-added responsiveness to meet and exceed client expectations. He keenly listens and clearly communicates to effectively counsel clients throughout litigation by explaining the options available, discussing strategy, providing a timeline, and answering questions.

Chris IijimaChris Iijima is HKM’s Director of Litigation Support. In this capacity, Chris combines his passion for law, technology, and project management to provide essential services to HKM attorneys and clients. He is an attorney licensed to practice in Minnesota federal and state courts, a Certified Electronic Discovery Specialist (CEDS), a Certified Professional Project Manager (CPPM), and is Six Sigma Certified.

*AV® is a certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell® certification procedures, standards and policies.

Photo credit: 

FlugKerl2 [CC BY-SA]