Kreindler Reaches Settlement in Navy MH-53E Helicopter Crash in Italy
- A settlement was reached in the crash of a Sikorsky MH-53E helicopter during a routine Naval training mission which killed all four crew members.
- While Government/Military Contractor Defense cases are difficult to try, Kreindler
partner Frank Fleming was successful in representing the families of those lost in the military accident.
crash occurred during a
routine training mission a short time after the helicopter departed
the U.S. Navy base outside of Catania in Eastern Sicily. All four crew members were killed.
The Navy investigation
determined the helicopter crashed because of a fire in the number two
MH-53E is manufactured by
Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and is powered by three General Electric engines.
Its mission is primarily for airborne mine countermeasures, but it is also
frequently used for shipboard delivery. It can operate from carriers and other
warships and is capable of carrying 55 troops or a payload of up to 16 tons.
Kreindler and its
attorneys were highly qualified to represent the interests of the families of
the troops killed in the crash. Frank Fleming flew the CH-53 helicopter, which is a
predecessor version of the MH-53, while serving with the United States Marines
in Vietnam. Mike Sherwin
was a U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer. Equally important, our firm
has tremendous experience
litigating cases involving the Government/Military Contractor Defense,
which gives government contractors additional protection in lawsuits involving
the products they build for the government.
Success in lawsuits involving military aircraft accidents invariably turns on overcoming the defense.
Kreindler aviation attorneys Steven Pounian and Justin Green wrote a New York Law Journal article covering the issue of military contractors. The government contractor defense was first discussed by the United States Supreme Court in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988), which also involved a military helicopter crash. In Boyle, the Supreme Court barred the state tort liability claims involving products manufactured for the military. The Court found that such claims for design defects are preempted “when (1) the United States approved reasonably precise specifications; (2) the equipment conformed to those specifications; and (3) the supplier warned the United States about the dangers in the use of the equipment that were known to the supplier but not to the United States.”
Contractors have, often successfully, advanced defenses to bar tort liability based on the political question doctrine and federal preemption.
the 30 years since the Boyle decision, plaintiffs have had
some success attacking each of the three prongs of the Boyle test in individual cases. Successful litigation
against government and military contractors requires a technical evaluation of
the suspected product defect, a technical evaluation of the specifications set
by the government for the product, and an investigation of both the testing of
the product and the quantity and quality of information provided by the
manufacturer to the government.
is never an easy task and many law firms won’t accept cases which involve the
defense, even when death or injury is clearly caused by a defective product.
& Kreindler has earned a reputation for successfully defeating the
government contractor defense, or creating such a high likelihood of
success that defendants settle the case rather than establish legal precedent
that might undercut of limit its scope. This was the case in the MH-53E litigation. After a prodigious battle and
years of hard fought, take-no-prisoners litigation, the cases were settled on
terms favorable to the families.