Chopper Crash Wreckage May Face Inspection

     (CN) – The bankrupt manufacturer of a helicopter component at issue in a fatal crash can duck civil claims after withdrawing its objection to inspection of the wreckage, a federal judge ruled.
     Schweizer Aircraft manufactured the helicopter that crashed near Blackpool in Lancashire, England, on Sept. 22, 2009, while pilot Steven Edward Lewis was training Philip Charles Gray for a private license.
     The crash killed both men, who were U.K. citizens, and counsel for their estates shipped the helicopter wreckage to Delaware, where it remains in storage.
     Steven’s personal representative, Pamela Lewis, filed suit in Pennsylvania, joined by Philip’s representatives, Keith Whitehead and John Wroblewski.
     The defendants include Schweizer, a subsidiary and other manufacturers involved with the chopper: Avco Corp., Lycoming Engines, Textron Systems Corp., Textron Inc., Precision Airmotive LLC, Precision Airmotive Corp., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., United Technologies Corp., and Champion Aerospace LLC.
     Precision Airmotive, which allegedly manufactured the fuel injector servo that was used in the Schweizer helicopter, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012, automatically staying the litigation. Omitting Precision from consideration, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III refused in January 2012 to dismiss the claims against the other defendants on the basis of forum non conveniens.
     Precision then informed all parties that it would object to any inspection of the helicopter wreckage as a violation of the automatic stay, but later agreed to withdraw its objections if the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed it from the case.
     The remaining defendants opposed, but Bartle decided Wednesday that the automatic stay does not preclude dismissing Precision from the case.
     “The non-Precision defendants also argue that they would be prejudiced by the dismissal of the Precision defendants because they will not be able to rely on evidence at the disposal of the Precision defendants, such as documents involving the design and manufacture of the fuel injector servo,” Bartle wrote. “We disagree. Just as with any other non-party, the non-Precision defendants may seek discovery from the Precision defendants if they are dismissed from this action through Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”
     Now that the stay has been entered – 14 months after the complaint was served – the defendants cannot file any cross-claims against Precision, according to the ruling.
     “The plaintiffs are not settling with the Precision defendants for any sum of money but rather are dismissing those defendants entirely from the action,” Bartle wrote. “Accordingly, this situation is the same as if the plaintiffs had chosen not to sue the Precision defendants originally – a decision which they would have been free to make. The absence of the Precision defendants on the verdict sheet at trial is no different from the verdict sheet in any other similar situation where a joint tortfeasor or other potentially liable party is not sued.”

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