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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘Last Victim’ of Concorde Crash Sues United

CHICAGO (CN) - The aircraft mechanic accused of indirectly causing the Concorde crash that killed 113 people in 2000 - who was exonerated last year - sued United Airlines, claiming it made him the "fall guy," and to become world-renowned as the man responsible for the disaster.

John Taylor sued United Airlines, United Continental Holdings (UCHI), and Air France-KLM, in Cook County Court.

Taylor, a United aircraft technician, was blamed for the Concorde supersonic jets' only crash in 27 years of operation, which killed 113 people in 2000.

A French appeals court exonerated him of manslaughter on Nov. 29, 2012.

"He truly is the last victim of the Concorde crash," his attorney, Paul LaValle, told Courthouse News in an interview. "Literally every newspaper in the world carried a story about John Taylor killing these people."

According to the 15-page lawsuit: "On July 25, 2000, Air France Concorde Flight 4590 crashed shortly after taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France, The catastrophic event caused the deaths of all 100 passengers, all 9 crewmembers and an additional 4 souls on the ground for a total loss of life of 113 souls. ...

"During the take-off phase of the flight, Air France Concorde 4590 struck a metal wear strip that had fallen off a previously departing Continental Airlines DC-10 that was owned and operated by United-Continental and/or UCHI."

In the ensuring investigation, Taylor's supervisor Stanley Ford told French authorities that Taylor was responsible for the faulty repair work that led to the piece of metal falling off the DC-10 onto the runway, according to the complaint.

Taylor was then convicted in absentia of 113 counts of manslaughter, and sentenced to 15 months in a French prison.

Ford, on the other hand, "got a $50,000 check from the airline," LaValle told Courthouse News.

Taylor claims in the lawsuit that "he did not perform the work on the DC-10 in question. In fact, Mr. Taylor denied having performed work on the plane and no maintenance repair logs indicate that Mr. Taylor performed any work on the plane prior to events leading to the Concorde crash."

LaValle suggested Taylor was targeted for his union activities.

"He was the shop steward, so he was a pain to the supervisor, Mr. Ford. So when they got a hold of Ford, he said, 'Oh, it must've been John Taylor.' The guy who does the work puts it in the logbook, which then goes to the supervisor to be signed off. That never happened. Taylor never worked on it or filled in the logbook. There's no documentation that the work was ever done."

United failed to provide Taylor with a competent defense, but "pursued a course of action that offered Mr. Taylor virtually no defense and which allowed him to be the fall guy or scapegoat for the horrific Concorde crash and massive loss of life," the complaint states.

LaValle added: "When I started negotiating with general counsel for airline, they were saying how upset they were because they did all they could for Taylor. Really, the airline appealed the judgment because Continental was ordered to pay 70 percent of the damages, not to help John Taylor."

In a letter sent to United Airlines' CEO before he filed the lawsuit, LaValle said Taylor "became divorced, anxious, depressed, alcoholic, and suicidal," due to the accusations leveled against him.

He lived "in fear of being seized and extradited by bounty hunters, foreign agents and/or Interpol operatives. Further, Mr. Taylor lived in constant fear each time his doorbell rang or he observed a vehicle that looked out of place on his street," the letter said.

Taylor seeks damages for breach of fiduciary duty, emotional distress, negligence, and malicious prosecution.

LaValle said his client may be eligible for more then $3.5 billion in damages: three times the amount the defendants paid the 113 families of the crash victims.

In addition to LaValle, of Texas City, Texas, Taylor is represented by Gary McAllister of Chicago, and George Fleming, with Fleming, Nolen & Jez, of Houston.

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