Family Can Pursue Suit Over Plane-Building Kit

     (CN) – A company that sells build-your-own-airplane kits may be liable for the death of a man who crashed in his creation, an Arizona appeals court ruled.



     Gerard Van Heeswyck put together an Arion Lightning airplane distributed by Tennessee-based Jabiru USA Sport Aircraft LLC on behalf of the Australian Jabiru Aircraft company.
     He bought the plane kit from Arion aircraft retailer Greg Hobbs and built it in Hobbs’ hangar, located in Marana, Ariz.
     After an inspection, a test pilot made a successful maiden flight in the plane. Van Heeswyck then flew the plane without incident between February and May 2008.
     On June 1, 2008, however, the propeller assembly detached and Gerard died in the crash.
     Gerald’s wife, Susie, sued Jabiru on behalf of his estate. His daughters, Kristen and Victoria Van Heeswyck, joined the lawsuit against Hobbs, Jabiru and Sensenich Propeller Manufacturing.
     A Pima County dismissed Jabiru for lack of personal jurisdiction, but the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division II, found that Jabiru had enough business contacts in Arizona to be sued in the Grand Canyon State.
     “In 2006 alone – the year Gerard purchased the Jabiru 3300 engine – Jabiru’s distributors sold at least 61 Jabiru products in Arizona, including five engines,” Judge Garye Vasquez wrote on behalf of the Tucson-based court.
     “While these sales may have accounted for only one to two percent of Jabiru’s sales nationally, they amount to the ‘minimum contacts’ necessary to satisfy the due process clause,” the April 24 decision states.

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