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Helicopter Crash Litigation: Second Edition - Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company, Inc.

Helicopter Crash Litigation: Second Edition

$ 250.00

  • Author: Gary C. Robb
  • ISBN 10: 1-936360-49-7
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-936360-49-9
  • Copyright Date Ed:  July 28, 2015
  • Pages: 528
  • Binding Information: Casebound
  • Size: 11 X 8.5 Inches (US)

Helicopter Crash Litigation, Second Edition is, simply put, an essential volume for any lawyer litigating a helicopter crash case. No other book is devoted exclusively to the representation of plaintiffs in helicopter crash cases. These unique cases require a different approach and techniques, which you will learn from accomplished trial lawyer Gary Robb, who has used these same techniques in a brilliant career as a trial lawyer.

For thirty years, Robb has handled numerous helicopter crash lawsuits throughout the country. His long-standing success earned him the recognition by Forbes Magazine as “by far the most successful helicopter crash attorney in the country.” His $350 million jury verdict in 1995 on behalf of a pilot killed in a helicopter crash and his $70 million jury verdict for a young woman killed in that same crash are the two highest jury verdicts in helicopter crash cases in U.S. history.

In this book, Robb leads you through the myriad complexities that inevitably arise from cases involving these unique flying machines. Helicopter crash litigation is difficult. From start to finish, these cases are as complex and challenging as any to be found in civil litigation. This book removes some of that mystery and offers practical and useful advice, giving you the tools to successfully litigate such cases. Utilizing this book, you will be able to maximize the prospects of success for persons injured in helicopter crashes and for the families of those who have had loved ones killed in those crashes.

This indispensable text travels through the different knowledge and skill sets critical in the successful handling of these cases, ranging from the basic elements of helicopter structure and flight, through the preliminary factual investigation, filing the case, discovery, common defenses, damages and trial. Real helicopter case examples are utilized throughout so as to give context to the suggestions and techniques discussed. The author also recommends safety improvements within the helicopter industry for preventing these accidents in the future.

Gregory P. Joseph, former chair of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation and president of the American College of Trial Lawyers (2010-11), says, “This unique and invaluable book puts you in a position to get a helicopter crash case to trial, in a forum of your choice, and to try it successfully.”

Topics Include

  • Helicopter Flight, Operation and Control
  • Helicopter Crash Dynamics
  • Common Crash Sequence and Impact Scenarios
  • Pre-Filing Matters
  • Factual Investigation
  • National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Weather and Environmental Conditions
  • Collectibility and Insurance Coverage Issues
  • Liability Experts: Selection, Retention and Utilization
  • Helicopter Wreckage: Acquisition, Preservation and Storage
  • Military Helicopter Crashes
  • Filing the Helicopter Crash Lawsuit
  • Wire Strike Incidents
  • Pilot Error
  • Maintenance Personnel
  • Manufacturer of Helicopter
  • Discovery and Case Development
  • Document Requests
  • Common Defenses in Helicopter Crash Cases
  • State Statutes of Limitations and Repose
  • General Aviation and Revitalization Act (GARA)
  • Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests
  • Forum Non Conveniens
  • Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
  • Contributory or Comparative Negligence
  • Common Evidentiary Issues
  • Demonstrative Evidence
  • Computer-Generated Animation or Simulation of Crash Sequence
  • Photographs of Crash Scene and Helicopter Wreckage
  • Daubert Challenges
  • Damages In Helicopter Crash Cases
  • Punitive Damages
  • Pre-Trial Matters
  • Trial Matters
  • Jury Selection
  • Opening and Closing Statement
  • Cross-Examination
  • Safety Improvements for the Helicopter Industry
  • Mission-Specific Recommendations for Enhanced Safety
  • Sample Pleadings in Helicopter Crash Cases
  • Significant Helicopter Crash Case Decisions

Table of Contents

About the Author
Preface to Second Edition
Preface to First Edition

Part I: The Basics of Helicopter Structure, Operation and Performance

Chapter 1: Introduction to Helicopter Flight, Operation and Control
1.1 Helicopter Structure and Flight Systems
A. Basic Structure
B. The Rotor System
C. Helicopter Systems
1.2 Flight Controls and Operation
A. Collective Pitch Control
B. Cyclic Pitch Control
C. Swashplates
D. Tail Rotor Pedals
E. Throttle Control
1.3 Helicopter Aerodynamics: What Makes It Fly?
A. Aerodynamic Forces
B. Aerodynamic Lift
C. Angle of Attack and Stall
D. Translational Lift
E. Flight Stability
F. Height Velocity Diagram or Dead Man's Curve
1.4 Piloting a Helicopter
A. The Hover
B. Take Off to Forward Flight
C. Turns
D. FAA Requirements
1.5 Emergency Conditions‚ Flight Irregularities and Systems Malfunction
A. Autorotation
B. Hydraulic System Failure
C. Dynamic Rollover
D. Settling With Power
E. Retreating Blade Stall
F. Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness
G. Failure of Tail Rotor System

Chapter 2: Helicopter Crash Dynamics‚ Common Crash Sequence and Impact Scenarios
2.1 Impact Categories
A. Hard Landing
B. Survivable Crash
C. High Impact Crash
2.2 Impact Dynamics
A. Direction of Impact
B. Rotational Inertia
2.3 Common Mechanical System Failures
A. Engine Failure
B. Transmission Failure
C. Main Rotor System Failure
D. Tail Rotor System Failure
E. Control System Failure
F. In-Flight Fire
G. Restraint System Failures and Crashworthiness

Part II: The Basics of Helicopter Crash Litigation

Chapter 3: Pre-Filing Matters
3.1 Preliminary Factual Investigation
A. Initial Client Contact and Retention‚ The Statutory Time Constraints
B. Initial Interaction with the National Transportation Safety Board
C. Inspection and Documentation of the Helicopter Crash Site
D. Acquisition of Investigative Materials from Local Government Agencies and Media Outlets
E. Interviews of All Eye and Ear Witnesses to the Helicopter Crash
F. Acquisition and Review of Engine and Maintenance Logbooks
G. Assessing Weather and Environmental Conditions
H. Pilot's Training, Certification and Ratings
I. Collectibility and Insurance Coverage Issues
J. Practice Checklist: Helicopter Crash Initial Factual Investigation Checklist
3.2 Early Selection, Retention and Utilization of Liability Experts
A. Criticality of Early Retention
B. Selecting the Necessary and Appropriate Fields of Expertise
C. Considerations for Hiring Helicopter Crash Experts
D. Use of Team Approach for Liability Experts
E. Expert Assistance Throughout Investigation and Discovery
3.3 Acquisition, Preservation and Storage of the Helicopter Wreckage
3.4 Inspection and Examination of the Helicopter Wreckage
3.5 Factual Investigation of Military Helicopter Crashes
3.6 Acquisition of Records from the Federal Aviation Administration
A. Air Traffic Control Data
B. Aircraft Ownership Records
C. Pilot's Flight and Medical File
D. Service Difficulty Reports and Accident/Incident Reports
E. Service Letters, Service Bulletins and Airworthiness Directives
F. Federal Aviation Regulations
3.7 Mining Technical and Professional Journals
3.8 Accepting or Declining the Representation
A. Standard for Accepting Representation
B. Helicopter Crash Cases Which Should Be Declined
C. Avoiding Conflicts of Interest in Multiple Representation
D. Filing Suit Promptly After Representation Accepted

Chapter 4: Filing the Helicopter Crash Lawsuit
4.1 Determining the Cause of the Crash
A. Loss of Main Rotor Control
B. Loss of Tail Rotor Function
C. Main Rotor Strike to Fixed Obstacle
D. Helicopter Component Part or System Failure
E. Helicopter Engine Failure or Power Loss
F. Wire Strike Incidents
G. Pilot Error
H. Pilot Incapacitation
I. Pilot Distraction
J. Improper Maintenance
K. Mid-Air Collision
L. Avionics or Instrument Failure
M. In-Flight Fire or Explosion
N. Mid-Air Break-Up or Structural Failure
O. Fuel Starvation, Exhaustion or Contamination
P. Sabotage and Combat Operations
Q. Weather or Environmental Factors
R. Air Traffic Control Error
4.2 Assessing Survivability and Crashworthiness Issues
A. Occupant Protection
B. Restraint Systems
C. Structural Integrity
D. Post-Impact Fire or Explosion
4.3 Non-Occupant Injuries and Deaths
A. Boarding or Deboarding Incidents
B. Persons On Ground
C. Maintenance-Related Accidents
4.4 Identification of Potential Target Defendants
A. Pilot of Helicopter
B. Operator of Helicopter
C. Maintenance Personnel
D. Manufacturer of Helicopter
E. Distributor of Helicopter
F. Helicopter Engine Manufacturer
G. Helicopter Component Part Manufacturer
H. Air Traffic Control
I. Lessor of Helicopter
J. Owner or Leasee of Helicopter
K. Fixed Base Operator
L. Pilots of Other Aircraft
M. Electrical or Utility Companies
N. Wire Strike Protection Manufacturers
O. Film Production Companies
P. Hospitals or Regional Medical Centers
Q. Certification or Testing Laboratory
R. Flight Training Schools
S. Airport, Heliport, or Helipad Operators
T. Helmet, Seat or Seat Belt Manufacturer
U. Fire and Rescue Personnel
4.5 Jurisdictional and Choice of Laws Issues
A. Selection of Lawful and Appropriate Forum
B. The Federal versus State Court Decision
C. Suing a Foreign Helicopter or Helicopter Component Manufacturer
D. Filing Foreign Helicopter Crash Cases in U.S.
4.6 Dealing With Specialized Statutes and Regulations Potentially Applicable to Helicopter Crash Lawsuits
A. General Aviation and Revitalization Act
B. Federal Tort Claims Act
C. Death on the High Seas Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
D. Federal Aviation Regulations
E. State Workers' Compensation Statutes
F. State Statutes Imposing Liability on Aircraft Owners and Leasees
4.7 Finding and Working with Local Counsel
4.8 Common Legal Theories in Helicopter Crash Lawsuits
A. Negligence
B. Strict Products Liability
C. Breach of Warranty
D. Fraud and Misrepresentation
E. Liability for Punitive Damages
4.9 Pleading Issues
A. Drafting the Initial Complaint
B. Challenging Sufficiency of Defendant's Answer

Chapter 5: Discovery and Case Development
5.1 Sequence of Discovery
5.2 Written Discovery
A. Effective Use of Interrogatories
B. Effective Use of Document Requests
C. Effective Use of Request for Admissions
5.3 Fact Depositions
A. On-Scene Witnesses
B. Maintenance Personnel
C. NTSB Investigators
D. FAA Personnel
E. Surviving Passengers
F. Pilot and Co-Pilot
G. Defendant Manufacturer's In-House Engineers and Employees
H. Remaining Defendants
I. Plaintiff's Deposition
5.4 Expert Depositions
A. Preparing Plaintiff's Experts
B. Deposing Defendant's Experts
5.5 Common Discovery Issues
A. Conducting Discovery in Foreign Countries
B. Utilizing Freedom of Information Act Requests
C. Discovery in U.S. Military Helicopter Accidents
D. Protective Orders
5.6 Case Development Matters
A. Consolidation for Discovery or Trial
B. Discovery Schedule and Trial Setting
5.7 In-Depth Examination and Testing
A. Of Subject Helicopter, Engine and Component Part or System
B. Of Exemplar Helicopter, Engine and Component Part or System
5.8 Alternative or Informal Discovery Methods
A. Networking With Other Aviation Counsel
B. Patent and Trademark Searches
C. Defendant's Litigation History
D. Defendant's Website
E. Technical and Trade Literature

Chapter 6: Common Defenses in Helicopter Crash Cases
6.1 Time-Based Defenses
A. State Statutes of Limitations and Repose
B. General Aviation and Revitalization Act
6.2 Jurisdictional Defenses
A. Federal Preemption
B. Forum Non Conveniens
C. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
D. Outside of Maximum Reach of Long-Arm Statute
6.3 Substantive Defenses
A. Product Misuse or Alteration of Component Part
B. Contributory or Comparative Negligence
C. Assumption of Risk
D. Government Contractor Defense
E. Useful Safe Life Presumptions
F. Compliance with Government Standards
G. State of the Art Defense

Chapter 7: Common Evidentiary Issues
7.1 Preparation and Effective Use of Demonstrative Evidence
A. Model of the Subject Helicopter or System
B. Topographical Model or Map of Crash Site
C. Computer-Generated Animation or Simulation of Crash Sequence
D. Computer Animation of Helicopter Component or System Function
E. In-Court Demonstrations or Experiments
7.2 Photographs of Crash Scene and Helicopter Wreckage
7.3 Jury View of Helicopter Wreckage
7.4 NTSB Reports
7.5 FAA Records
A. Air Traffic Control Communications
B. Governmental Investigative Reports
C. Non-Accident Specific FAA Documents and Materials
7.6 Service Difficulty Reports, Airworthiness Directives, Service Bulletins and Service Letters, and Malfunction and Defect Reports
A. Service Difficulty Reports
B. Airworthiness Directives
C. Service Bulletins and Service Letters
D. Malfunction and Defect Reports
7.7 Internal Company Documents
7.8 Daubert Motions to Exclude Expert Testimony
A. Meeting the Daubert Challenge
B. Challenging Defense Experts
7.9 Substantially Similar Incidents and Crashes
A. Legal Standard for Admissibility
B. Meeting the Challenge to Similar Incident Evidence
7.10 Subsequent Remedial Measures
7.11 Prior Lawsuits and Claims
7.12 Federal Aviation Regulations
7.13 Use of Accident Statistics

Chapter 8: Damages In Helicopter Crash Cases
8.1 Non-Unique Damages Issues In Helicopter Crash Cases
A. Wrongful Death
B. Debilitating Physical Injury
8.2 Typical Damages Issues In Helicopter Crash Litigation
A. Pre-Impact Terror
B. Post-Impact Conscious Pain and Suffering
C. Severe Burn Injuries
D. Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
E. Ground Impact Damages
F. Hull Damage
8.3 Punitive Damages in Helicopter Crash Cases

Chapter 9: Pre-Trial Matters
9.1 Final Trial Preparation
A. Logistics and Witness Scheduling
B. Dismissal of Non-Essential Defendants and Claims
C. Witness Selection
D. Editing Videotaped Deposition Testimony
9.2 Final Witness Preparation
A. Client Preparation for Trial
B. Fact Witness Preparation for Trial
C. Expert Witness Preparation for Trial
9.3 Final Briefing Preparation
A. Motions in Limine
B. Trial Brief
C. Trial Memoranda
9.4 Request for Sequestration of Witnesses
9.5 Use of Jury Focus Group and Jury Consultants
9.6 Development of Case Theme for Trial
A. Case Theme Examples
B. Case Theme Reversing Principle Weakness in Case
C. Case Theme Focusing on Specific Impact of Injury
D. Case Theme Directly Contrary to the Main Defense
9.7 Jury Instructions
A. General Considerations
B. Standard Jury Instructions
C. Examples of Jury Instructions
9.8 Settlement Considerations

Chapter 10: Trial
10.1 Jury Selection
A. Objectives
B. Suggested Voir Dire Questions, Trial Excerpts and Commentary
10.2 Opening Statement
A. Objectives and Suggested Techniques
B. Sample Outline of Opening Statement
C. Trial Excerpts and Commentary
10.3 Plaintiff's Case-In-Chief
A. Direct Examination of On-Scene Witnesses
B. Direct Examination of Defendant's Corporate Representatives
C. Direct Examination of Plaintiff's Expert Witnesses
D. Direct Examination of Damages Witnesses
E. Direct Examination of Plaintiffs
10.4 Defendant's Case-in-Chief
A. Cross-Examination of Defendant's Corporate Representative
B. Cross-Examination of Defense Expert Witnesses
10.5 Plaintiff's Rebuttal Evidence
10.6 Closing Argument
A. Objectives and Suggested Techniques
B. Sample Outline of Closing Argument
C. Trial Excerpts of Liability Argument and Commentary
D. Trial Excerpts of Damages Argument and Commentary
10.7 Plaintiff's Rebuttal Argument

Part III: Safety Recommendations for the Helicopter Industry

Chapter 11: Generic Safety Improvements for the Helicopter Industry
11.1 Safer Design and Manufacturing Processes
A. Addressing Known Design and Manufacturing Deficiencies
B. Enhanced Reporting of Helicopter Accidents or Incidents and Component or System Malfunction
C. Reducing Post-Impact Fires
11.2 Enhanced Management Oversight
11.3 Improved Maintenance Procedures
A. Strict Compliance with Manufacturer's Maintenance Program
B. Helicopter-Specific Training for Mechanics
C. Implementation of Health and Usage Monitoring Systems
11.4 Pilot Training and Flight Restrictions
11.5 Mandatory Equipment
A. Night Vision Goggles
B. Terrain Awareness and Warning System
C. Global Positioning System Technology
D. Multi-Engine Helicopters
E. Flotation and Locator Devices
F. Flight Data Recorder
11.6 Enhanced FAA Regulatory Oversight

Chapter 12: Mission-Specific Recommendations for Enhanced Safety
12.1 Helicopter Touring Industry
A. Greater Scrutiny and Monitoring of Tour Operator Management and Maintenance Practices
B. Enhanced Pilot Training and Experience
C. Pre-Determined Flight Path
D. Independent Risk Assessment of Weather Conditions
E. Dedicated Non-Pilot Tour Guide or Recorded Commentary
F. Minimize Crowded Airspace
G. Minimum Hover and Flight Distances
12.2 News-Gathering Operations
A. Eliminate Reporting Duties for Pilots of News-Gathering Helicopters
B. Enhanced Visibility of Aircraft
C. Enhanced Air and Ground Communications Among News-Gathering Pilots
12.3 Air Ambulance Services
A. Implementation of Flight Risk Assessment Program
B. Installation of Terrain Awareness and Warning System
C. Mandatory Use of Night Vision Goggles
D. Enhanced Pilot Training
12.4 Utility Wire Inspection
A. Advance Ground or Aerial Reconnaissance
B. Separate Spotter or Observer
C. Mandatory Attendance at Wire Strike Avoidance Training
D. Greater Use of Marker Devices on Utility Wires
12.5 Search and Rescue Operations
12.6 Law Enforcement and Border Patrol Usage
12.7 Military Training Exercises
12.8 Private Transportation
12.9 Transport to Offshore Oil Platforms
12.10 Fire-Fighting Operations

Appendix A: Sample Pleadings in Helicopter Crash Cases
A.1 Sample Complaint 1: Helicopter Engine Design (Nozzle Guide Vane Failure)
A.2 Sample Complaint 2: Helicopter Mechanical System Malfunction Due to Manufacturing Defect (Tail Rotor System)
A.3 Sample Complaint 3: Helicopter Pilot Error (Wire Strike)
A.4 Sample Complaint 4: Helicopter Mechanic Negligence (Failure to Properly Install and Secure Connection Hardware for Fore/Aft Servo Assembly)
A.5 Sample First Set of Interrogatories: Helicopter Engine Failure/Design Defect
A.6 Sample First Set of Interrogatories: Helicopter Component Part Manufacturer
A.7 Sample First Set of Interrogatories: Helicopter Pilot Error
A.8 Sample First Set of Interrogatories: Helicopter Mechanic Negligence
A.9 Sample First Request for Production of Documents: Helicopter Engine Failure/Design Defect
A.10 Sample First Request for Production of Documents: Helicopter Component Part Manufacturer
A.11 Sample First Request for Production of Documents: Helicopter Pilot Error
A.12 Sample First Request for Production of Documents: Helicopter Mechanic Negligence
A.13 Sample Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Based on GARA

Appendix B: Significant Helicopter Crash Case Decisions
B.1 Barnett v. La Societe Anonyme Turbomeca France (1998)
B.2 Boyle v. United Technologies Corporation (1988)
B.3 Four Corners Helicopters, Inc. v. Turbomeca, S.A. (1992)
B.4 Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall (1984)
B.5 Letz v. Turbomeca Engine Corporation (1997)

Table of Cases and Statutes

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