Kreindler Honors "Founder of Aviation Law" Lee S. Kreindler
February 18, 2023
We honor our esteemed founder, Lee S. Kreindler, who passed away on February 18, 2003. For more than half a century, Lee Kreindler led and guided the law firm that he and his father Harry Kreindler founded in 1950 to advance the rights of victims of accidents and which soon became the leading plaintiff’s firm in the area of aviation accident law. Lee led the firm with ingenuity and steely determination both to modernize the legal rules applicable to wrongful death and aviation accidents and solve the causes of plane crashes to promote safety, excellence in the courtroom, and compassion for his clients.
Lee Kreindler Led the Way
In a 1964 television interview, Lee Kreindler discussed his opposition to the proposed heliport atop the Pan Am building in New York City. The roof of the 808-foot-tall Pan Am building was used as a helipad from 1965 to 1968 to transport passengers from Midtown to the Pan Am terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport. The helipad reopened in February 1977. Lee’s concerns were validated when on May 16, 1977, five people were killed when a rotor broke off a New York Airways Sikorsky S‐61 helicopter on the roof of the Pan Am building in Manhattan. The blade went over the building’s west parapet crashing into a window of the skyscraper. A piece of the blade continued to fall and landed on Madison Avenue.
For over five decades, Lee was the most highly regarded aviation plaintiff’s attorney in the world, his knowledge and insight were invaluable assets in every major aviation accident lawsuit he took on.
Crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996
Following the 1996 crash of TWA flight 800, Lee was one of the first people to declare that the explosion of the Boeing 747 was likely caused by a mechanical issue, not a bomb as many people had initially suspected. As Chair of the Plaintiffs’ Committee, Lee led the prosecution to a successful result. The litigation resulted in an important change in the law causing Congress to soon modify the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), a maritime law that also applies to aviation accidents that occur over open waters or the “high seas.” Kreindler & Kreindler represented the families of more than 50 victims who died in the crash.
Terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988
Lee’s work following the Pan Am flight 103 Lockerbie crash led to the largest recovery for a single disaster in the history of aviation - nearly $3 billion in lawsuits against Pan Am Airlines and the country of Libya. Kreindler’s case against the airline began under the Warsaw Convention, which resulted in a historic jury verdict of willful misconduct entitling families to full and fair compensation. In 1996 Congress amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which allowed suits to be filed against nations that were considered “state sponsors of terrorism,” including Libya. That year, Kreindler & Kreindler filed suit against Libya on behalf of the 117 families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103. A three-phase settlement agreement was finalized in 2003, under which Libya agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the victims’ families.
World Trade Center terrorist attacks of 2001
In December of 2001, Kreindler represented the surviving family members of more than seventy-five September 11th victims in one of the first liability lawsuits arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to be filed in Federal Court. Since that action, Kreindler & Kreindler continues to represent thousands of victims of 9/11 through the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and the lawsuit to hold a foreign sponsor of terrorism responsible for its action, Ashton et al v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Leading Resource for Aviation Accident Law
First published in 1963, Lee Kreindler wrote the 3 volume treatise, Aviation Accident Law, which has been the legal industry’s leading resource for aviation accident attorneys since its initial distribution. The information continues to be updated and edited each year by Kreindler aviation attorneys to reflect the most recent changes in the laws impacting the practice of aviation accident litigation.
Lee S. Kreindler Chair at Harvard
Following his death in 2003, Lee’s family endowed a professorial chair at Harvard Law School in torts, class actions, criminal procedure, labor law, the federal courts and professional responsibility. Lee earned his J.D. degree in 1949 from Harvard Law School. In a 2010 Sarasota Herald-Tribune article about the Kreindler chair at Harvard, Lee’s wife Ruth Kreindler said the gift “reflects her husband’s feelings toward the school that gave him a great legal education and laid the foundation for his career.” The current Lee S. Kreindler Professor of Law at Harvard Law School is Professor Alexandra Natapoff.
I'm a very relaxed passenger. It's extremely safe. An accident only happens when there is an extraordinary coincidence of a number of things going wrong.
Advocates for Victims of Air Disasters
Those who were fortunate enough to have known and worked with Lee were blessed to have him as a mentor and be guided by a great and humble teacher, advocate, friend and leader. Kreindler & Kreindler continues to embody Lee’s vision of what a victim’s advocate should be. He was committed to making that vision a reality during his fifty-four-year illustrious career, as are we each and every day.
About Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
Kreindler is the preeminent aviation accident law firm in the world. Since the firm’s beginnings with Lee Kreindler in 1950, we have fought diligently to achieve a record of success in resolving airplane and helicopter crash cases on behalf of our clients. Kreindler attorneys have been appointed lead counsel in nearly every major commercial airline disaster case in the U.S. and abroad. With law offices in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles, Kreindler welcomes inquiries from prospective clients and referring attorneys from anywhere in the United States.