2005-04-01 / Community

Judge Orders Settlement Offers In AA 587 Property Cases

By Howard Schwach

Federal Judge Robert Sweet has ordered the consortium of American Airlines and Airbus Industries to make settlement offers to Belle Harbor residents who suffered property damage only on November 12, 2001 when flight 587 crashed into the corner of Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street.

Up to the present, according to a lawyer close to the case, the two aviation giants have denied requests to open settlement talks with those who suffered property damage until all of the death cases were settled.

The judge’s ruling on Tuesday leaves them no choice.

According to Robert Spragg, an attorney with Kriendler & Kriendler, the lead firm litigating all of the cases arising from the crash, 221 of the 265 death cases have been settled, leaving 44 of the “more difficult cases” to settle along with 26 property damage cases from Belle Harbor residents.

In addition, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked that the liability discovery process be reopened, a move that would force both Airbus and American Airlines to provide documentation about the crash and would lead to a trial that would determine liability.

Judge Sweet has been reluctant to do that, preferring instead to allow time for settlement of all the suits involved with the crash and saving the cost and time of a trial.

Sweet stayed the discovery process yet again, this time until May 17. At 2 p.m. that day, Sweet will reconvene a hearing. At that time, he said, if there are not settlements in many of the remaining cases, he would set a schedule for the reopening of liability discovery, probably for June 15.

“There are a number of the victim’s families who are disaffected with the NTSB report,” Spragg said. “They disapprove of the conclusions of the report, but that is often not enough to keep them from reaching a settlement.” “Sometimes,” Spragg added, “you need to put a trial date in hand in order to get things moving.”

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