Locke Lord Client Wins Major Decision in Airline Crash Case

    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.

    Locke Lord's aviation team has a long-history of finding creative solutions to their clients' matters and services those needs in matters throughout the United States.

    Locke Lord consistently ranks among American Lawyer's top 100 U.S. law firms. The Firm's full range of practice and industry areas serve national and international clients from offices in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. It has an excellent reputation in complex litigation, regulatory and transactional work, with its 650-plus lawyers building collaborative relationships and crafting creative solutions – all designed and executed to meet clients' long-term strategic goals.

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