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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
19 September 2002 – Singapore Airlines (9V-SPK)
Singapore Airlines (SIA) has confirmed it has settled a lawsuit brought against the company by a survivor of a plane crash that killed 83 people in Taiwan 3 years back. “I can confirm that a settlement has been reached with the plaintiff but we are prohibited by the court from disclosing the amount,” SIA spokesman Ric Clements told AFP today. “It is, however, substantially less than the plaintiff had demanded.” In his lawsuit filed in the United States, retired college professor Harald Linke had demanded unspecified damages for injuries he received when an SIA plane crashed while attempting to take off on the wrong runway at Taipei's Chiang Kai-Shek airport on 31 October 2000. Linke's lawyer, Kevin Boyle, said in Los Angeles that the amount offered to settle the lawsuit was “extremely substantial and probably a record sum for a post traumatic stress syndrome case without significant injury”. Boyle said SIA “finally offered us what we deemed to be an honourable amount,” adding that the terms of the deal were protected by a confidentiality agreement. Clements, however, said “we do not know the basis for saying that the settlement was a record sum.” The former New York University biology professor's negligence suit was the first of several brought over the crash to reach trial in the United States, his lawyers said. The settlement should set an important precedent in resolving more than 140 US lawsuits stemming from the crash, they said. The cases are being heard in California as the jet was bound for Los Angeles after a refuelling stop in Taipei. The next “exemplar” case stemming from the crash is due to go to trial in Los Angeles on 30 September. It was brought by a passenger who was badly burned.
22 September 2003 – Garuda Airlines, Crash in North Sumatra, Indonesia (1997)
An out of court settlement was reached today in Chicago in a damage suit resulting from a 1997 crash that was Indonesia's worst airline disaster, lawyers said. The settlement involved survivors of 26 crash victims who sued a US technology company claiming the ground proximity warning system on the Garuda Airlines Airbus A300-B4 was faulty. The aircraft, on a domestic flight from Jakarta to Medan, clipped a tree on a mountain ridge and crashed, killing all 234 on board. Families of the victims have already received compensation from the state-owned airline, according to lawyers for the Nolan Law Group, which handled the US suit. The US action was brought on behalf of 26 victims – 18 Indonesians, four Germans, two Italians and two British.
The settlement, which the lawyers estimated would run about $600,000 per family, was reached just as the case was to go to trial in federal court in Chicago. The suit named the former Sundstrand Corp, which later became Hamilton Sundstrand, a unit of United Technologies Corp. The lawyers said United Technologies had no liability in the case. Sundstrand had sold the technology involved in the ground proximity system to another company several years before the crash. The lawyers said a similar suit involving the survivors of two US citizens who died in the crash was still pending in federal court in Oregon.
7 October 2003 – Helicopter missing on a flight from petropavlovskkamchatsky to Kuril Islands, Russia
A Mil Mi-8 helicopter crashed on Kamchatka because its crew violated the rules of flying in the mountainous area, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said today, commenting on the results of a meeting of the state commission investigating the cause of the crash. “The crew flew lower than a safe height, and did not turn back when weather conditions made it impossible to continue a safe visual flight. As a result, the helicopter crashed,” said the minister. The helicopter crashed on 20 August. All 20 people were on board – 17 passengers, including Sakhalin governor Igor Farkhutdinov, and three crew members were killed.
25 November 2003 – aviation accident, Gerona, Spain
Passengers suing for psychological injuries suffered after their holiday flight from Cardiff crash landed more than 4 years back have won a major legal victory. At Cardiff County Court today, Judge Graham Jones ruled in favour of their bid to secure compensation from the tour operator, Thomson Holidays. It may form a landmark change in an international agreement which allows victims of coach and rail accidents to sue for psychological injuries but not air passengers. The judge ruled that the passengers did not have to prove that Britannia Airways had been negligent in crashing flight BY226A, leaving the plane in three pieces in a field next to the runway. His ruling removes the final obstacle in the way of the passengers being paid compensation by tour operator Thomson for their psychological injuries. He delivered his reserved judgement from a hearing held in September and ruled that Thomson was liable to pay compensation up to £85,000. He ruled that there was no need for passengers to first demonstrate that Britannia Airways was negligent and described Thomson's attempts to force the passengers to first prove negligence by the airline as an “attempt to argue the unarguable”.
Throughout the case, Thomson Holidays has maintained that it was not liable to pay compensation to the passengers for the mental trauma they suffered. An earlier attempt to use the small print of its Travellers' Charter was rejected by the court in May, when the judge ruled that the tour operator could not hide behind the outdated Warsaw Convention, which only allows claims for physical injuries. Hugh James partner, travel lawyer Mark Harvey, added: “The continued refusal of the air travel industry to recognise the very real effects of psychiatric injury is abhorrent. Our clients are still living with the scars of the crash landing, though no fault of their own, and they have been forced to fight for justice every step of the way. It is time that the Warsaw Convention was given a good shake up and redrafted to make it appropriate to the 21st Century. The recent revisions to form the Montreal Convention 1999 still specifically preclude air passengers from claiming compensation for psychiatric injuries, unlike coach and rail passengers who find themselves in the same situation.” It was in September 1999, when the Britannia Airways Boeing 757, carrying 236 passengers from Cardiff, was forced to land in a field at Gerona, in Spain. After one aborted landing attempt during a heavy thunderstorm, the plane hit the ground twice, then veered off the runway, breaking into three pieces.
Following the accident, several passengers received compensation for physical injuries suffered. But the group of 70 passengers successfully argued in court that they should be able to pursue a claim for compensation for psychological injuries resulting from the crash. They claim they are still suffering nightmares and flashbacks. UK accident investigators published a report into the crash in 2000. The crash victims should receive between £5,000 and £10,000 but some of the more deeply traumatised may claim sums closer to £100,000.