(CN) – A helicopter company cannot dismiss a negligence claim filed by the widow of a military pilot who died when his chopper fell apart in midair, a federal judge in Tampa, Fla., ruled.
MD Helicopters did succeed in dismissing a claim for product liability, a jury must decide whether the company failed to instruct users about continued use following repairs, U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington said.
Pilot John A. Scott was transporting a military surplus OH-6A helicopter to Kansas from Lance Aviation in Florida in 2007 when the chopper’s main rotor blades, transmission and main rotor hub separated and caused the rotorcraft to crashed near Moulton, Ala.
MD Helicopters moved to dismiss the three counts against it in a lawsuit filed by Scott’s widow.
The company holds the type certificate for model 369A, to which the helicopter was covered by the Lance Aviation fixed-base operator in 2004.
Lance had just completed three months of maintenance work on the helicopter when Scott took possession of it. “Lance utilized the services of an independent contractor to perform a 100-hour inspection, where it was found that the main rotor hub did not pass,” the judge’s order explained. “Lance sent the part to Triumph Gear Systems for overhaul, but ultimately installed a replacement hub out of its inventory. The main rotor retention strap assembly that is part of the hub failed.”
It was later found that “the hub installed on N468WE was not an original military hub because the strap pack assembly was not sold until 1993,” according to the court. “Therefore, the hub had to have been overhauled or repaired sometime between 1993 and Lance’s purchase of the part.”
Scott agreed to withdraw the two counts of strict products liability, but Covington refused to dismiss the negligence claim, which alleges that the company breached its duty to provide instructions for continued airworthiness.
“The court determines that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to the extent of any regulatory duty MDHI may have to provide instructions for continued airworthiness, and whether MDHI breached that duty,” Covington concluded. “Furthermore, it would invade the province of the jury for this Court to decide whether the improper maintenance performed on N468WE constituted a foreseeable intervening cause that cut off any potential liability. The affirmative defenses asserted by MDHI are inapplicable to the negligence claim. Therefore, summary judgment is not appropriate as to Count V of Scott’s second amended complaint.”