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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Kentucky Proper Venue for Helicopter Crash Suit

NASHVILLE (CN) - Army helicopter manufacturing and maintenance companies must face claims that their allegedly defective work caused an overseas crash, a federal judge ruled.

Gregory Cooper and Gary and Mari Lyn Linfoot sued McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company, L-3 Communications Corporation, Kamatics Corporation and DynCorp International LLC in 2009.

U.S. Army officers Gary Linfoot and Cooper were flying an AH-6M helicopter near Baghdad, Iraq on May 31, 2008, when it crashed during a mission, according to the ruling

They claim the accident was caused by a faulty driveshaft that led to loss of power in the helicopter's rotors. Both men suffered spinal trauma from the crash, and Linfoot is now paralyzed.

The helicopter was based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky beginning in 1982, and it was rebuilt a number of times over the years, the ruling says.

McDonnell Douglas, the helicopter's manufacturer, filed a motion for summary judgment, disputing what role it and the other defendants played in modifications made to the helicopter.

But U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp denied the motion last week, focusing on choice of law in his analysis.

"Questions of fact abound throughout these filings and their accompanying exhibits, including the level of control MDHC, the Army, and other actors exercised over the [Mission Enhanced Little Bird] program and the relevance of these activities to the subject helicopter and the accident," Sharp wrote. "However, for the purpose of the motions currently before it, the court need only consider this information insofar as it is relevant to its choice of law inquiry, which is fairly limited."

The question was whether Tennessee - where Linfoot and Cooper live - or Kentucky - where the helicopter and their regiment is based - is a more appropriate jurisdiction for the case. After weighing the choice of law question, Sharp found that Kentucky is the most relevant venue for Linfoot and Cooper's claims.

"The subject helicopter was, in its original form, delivered to Kentucky no later than 1982 and has been based there for over thirty years. Though the helicopter underwent multiple modifications since that time, all appear to have occurred in Kentucky," the judge wrote. "The court concludes that Kentucky, as the location of the subject helicopter, its modifications, and plaintiffs' regiment, was the center of the parties' relationship."

Sharp ruled that Arizona - where the helicopter was designed and tested - is not proper jurisdiction because final modifications and maintenance happened in Kentucky. Neither party argued that the court should apply the substantive law of Iraq, where the crash occurred, according to the ruling.

In his ruling, Sharp also dismissed defendant L-3 Communications from the suit.

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