2005-12-09 / Community

German Mag: AA 587 Lawyers Want Airbus Info

By Howard Schwach

A German news magazine is reporting that the attorneys for the family members in the American Airlines Flight 587 crash suits recently “took Airbus by surprise” in the way that court papers asked for very specific information about the airplane manufacturer’s “manipulation of the load calculations for the [Airbus A300’s] vertical stabilizer.” Ulrich Jaeger, a writer for Der Spiegel magazine, which is roughly the German equivalent of Newsweek or Time Magazine, said that his information came from a source at Airbus’ in-house counsel.

While the Der Spiegel article says that there were to be legal arguments centering on the Airbus document to be heard by Judge Robert Sweet on December 7, The Wave has learned that that hearing, which was reportedly called to present the judge’s ruling on the determination as to which venue’s applicable law to use in deciding on monetary damages, has been postponed until January 25.

Robert Spragg, a lawyer for Kreindler and Kreindler in Manhattan, the firm that heads the attorney’s committee representing all of the plaintiffs resulting from the November 12, 2001 crash in Belle Harbor, told The Wave that the plaintiffs did serve papers on Airbus Industries asking for a number of documents that they hope will relate to the question of punitive damages.

So far, Airbus has not responded to the plaintiff’s request, and Spragg says they will probably not do so until after the January hearing.

“Judge Sweet put a hold on the discovery process nearly two years ago to allow the two defendants [Airbus and American Airlines] to settle with the families,” Spragg said. “Now the defendants are trying to stop the question of punitive damages. We have requested documents so that we will be ready to move forward after Judge Sweet makes his ruling in late January.”

More than a year ago, Der Spiegel said that the plaintiffs had an internal Airbus memorandum that shows that the engineers at Airbus, the company that built the A300-600 that was involved in the crash, manipulated tests that showed that the plane’s rudder could not handle high loads.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruled late last year in the agency’s “Final Report” that the crash was caused by the first officer, who unnecessarily and aggressively over-controlled the rudder controls, ripping the tail from the plane shortly after it departed JFK Airport on its way to the Dominican Republic.

Spragg told The Wave last week that only 18 of the 260 wrongful death suits against Airbus and American Airlines remain to be settled, including those of three Rockaway residents who died in the crash – Christopher Lawler, his mother Kathleen and Franco Pomponio.

All of the other 242 cases were settled in discussions between the family members and the two defendants.

None of the 30 cases involving personal injury and property damage suits brought by Belle Harbor residents has been settled, and Sweet says that those cases will probably not be settled until all of the wrongful death suits are dealt with.

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