23 Lawsuits Unsettled As AA 587 Reaches 6-Year Anniversary
With the sixth anniversary of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 into Belle Harbor only two weeks away, lawyers for family members who died in the tragic crash continue to take depositions and get ready for a court date set for March of next year.
Two hundred and sixty people on the plane and five on the ground died on November 12, 2001, when the Airbus A300-600 lost its tail and spiraled into the intersection of Newport Avenue and Beach 131 Street.
Last year at this time, nine of the wrongful death suits and 24 personal injury suits brought by local residents remained.
Now, however, all but five of the death suits have been settled in the past year. None of the lawsuits for wrongful death that remain to be settled were brought by the families of the Rockaway victims, sources say.
In addition, only 18 personal injury lawsuits remain, with six having been settled since last year's anniversary. All of those personal injury cases were brought by Rockaway residents, whose homes and property were destroyed or severely damaged in the crash.
Robert Spragg, an attorney with Kreindler and Kreindler, a Manhattan firm that leads the consortium of lawyers who represent family members before Judge Robert Sweet in federal court, told The Wave this week that the liability discovery portion of the pre-trial evidence collection is still going on, both here and in Europe.
"We're taking statements in France, Germany and here in the United States to see if we can set the responsibility for the crash," Spragg said. "We're taking depositions from personnel from American Airlines, Airbus Industries and third parties."
The plaintiff's attorneys have taken nearly 50 depositions up to this week, Spragg said.
At the same time, he added, the two defendants are taking depositions from family members about medical histories of those who died and those who might get the settlements.
Spragg said that the depositions would end in mid-December.
"Eventually, there will be a trial, but things go slowly in cases such as these," he said, pointing to the fact that Judge Sweet had stayed the discovery process for nearly three years in order for settlement discussions to take place between the families of those who died and the two defendant companies.
Spragg believes that there will eventually be a "shared responsibility" for the crash between Airbus and American Airlines.
In 2004, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that First Officer Sten Molin, who was flying the departure from JFK Airport that morning, "unnecessarily and over-aggressively" used the rudder system of the plane in a wave vortex situation, which ripped the tail from the plane. The agency blamed both the design of the rudder by Airbus and the training program provided by American Airlines for the loss of the tail.
Many Rockaway residents and family members of the victims, however, believe that the A300 series Airbus aircraft are flawed and that Airbus knew of that fact prior to the crash.
They hope that the discovery process will bring out the "smoking gun" memo that will prove they are right.
Meanwhile, the pre-trial process grinds on slowly and the Airbus A300 aircraft flown by American Airlines continue to overfly the Rockaway peninsula.
Officials declined to provide a list of the names of those families of victims who have not yet settled their wrongful death suits.