March 17, 2014 - Locke Lord LLP client International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) won a major decision recently in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which granted summary judgment, dismissing all claims against the company stemming from a 2009 airline crash.
The case - Hassanati v. International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) - arose out of the June 30, 2009 crash of Yemenia Airways flight off the Comoran coast in the Indian Ocean. All but one of the 153 passengers and crew members perished in the crash.
Surviving family members of certain deceased passengers filed suit against ILFC alleging the company was negligent in leasing the aircraft to Yemenia Airways. Using the Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002 (MMTJA), ILFC removed the case to U.S. District Court.
The Court's recent decision addressed two interrelated motions: (1) the plaintiffs' motion to appoint personal representatives as required under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA); and, (2) ILFC's motion for summary judgment that plaintiffs had no standing under DOHSA to pursue this action, having failed to comply with the Court's 2011 order to secure such appointments required under the Act.
In granting ILFC's motion for summary judgment and dismissing all claims against the company, the Court found the undisputed record established: the plaintiffs were not court-appointed personal representatives; no evidence existed or was offered by plaintiffs to suggest any other court (in the United States or otherwise) had so appointed them; and no reasonable steps had been taken to secure such an appointment before the running of the statute of limitations.
"This ruling represents a substantial victory for lessors facing claims arising out of occurrences outside the United States," said Locke Lord Chicago Partner Christopher Barth, who represented ILFC along with Chicago Associate Matthew J. Kalas. "The decision also highlights the importance of leveraging the applicability of nuanced statutes such as DOHSA in defending lessor's interests."
Barth said this case represents the first time a lone defendant was able to remove a single action based on the MMTJA and the first time that a court applied DOHSA to significantly reduce the number and type of claimants eligible to recover and to establish the standing requirements that ultimately led to dismissal.
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