Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Plane Crash Suits Belong in Martinique, Court Says

(CN) - Several wrongful death lawsuits brought by survivors of the 152 passengers killed in a 2005 plane crash in the Venezuelan mountains should be litigated in Martinique, not the United States, the 11th Circuit ruled.

The Atlanta-based appeals court upheld a lower court's finding that the French Caribbean island of Martinique is a more convenient forum, even though a Florida company chartered the flight.

Newvac chartered West Caribbean Airways, a Colombian company, for round-trip flights from Martinique to Panama. On Aug. 16, 2005, Flight 708 crashed in the mountains of Venezuela, killing all 152 passengers and eight crew members.

Relatives of the deceased passengers, nearly all French citizens of Martinique, filed wrongful death actions in Miami federal court.

The district court acknowledged that it has jurisdiction under the Montreal Convention, to which France and the United States are signatories. The treaty stipulates that a lawsuit for damages stemming from an international plane crash can be brought in the country of the actual or contracting carrier.

Nonetheless, the district court said Martinique is a better forum for the consolidated cases.

The 11th Circuit found no flaws in the lower court's reasoning.

"[W]e cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in determining that the United States was an inconvenient forum for both parties in which to determine damages," Judge Barkett wrote.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.