This article was originally posted in The Daily Record by Steve Lash on July 17, 2013.
A former Owings Mills resident who was injured in a 2009 plane crash in Jamaica has settled his federal lawsuit against American Airlines Inc.
Brenton Wilson was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 331, which originated at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and stopped in Miami en route to its final destination of Kingston, Jamaica.
The Boeing 737-800 overshot the Kingston runway in a rainstorm and landed about 15 feet from the Caribbean Sea. The impact cracked the fuselage into three parts. The airline crew’s negligence caused Wilson to suffer head wounds and shoulder, knee and back injuries, as well as lost income, according to the lawsuit he filed July 28, 2011, in the U.S. District Court in Miami, Fla.
No one was killed in the Dec. 22, 2009, crash at Norman Manley International Airport.
“It was harrowing,” said Wilson’s attorney, John R. Solter Jr, of Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz LLC in Towson. “He was bleeding. He was scared.”
The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed but Solter’s co-counsel and law partner, Judson H. Lipowitz, called the amount “full, fair and reasonable,” citing the international Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air. The treaty, popularly referred to as the Montreal Convention, calls on airlines to pay “full, fair and reasonable damages” to passengers injured in airline crashes.
American Airlines admitted no liability in agreeing to the settlement.
Wilson, a Jamaican-born U.S. citizen who works as a technician for a pharmaceutical company, is among 118 passengers who have sued the company in federal courts in Florida, Texas, New Jersey and New York, according to the company’s June 24 filing in the federal court.
The airline has resolved 102 of the cases, including 81 in the federal court in Miami, the company stated in its filing. For the parties still in the Florida case, a pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19, with trial expected in August 2014.
“We have settled most of the claims that were filed, and Mr. Wilson’s case is one of those claims that we have settled,” the Fort Worth, Texas-based company confirmed in a statement Wednesday.
The company’s attorney, Ronald G. DeWald, did not return telephone messages seeking additional comment Wednesday. DeWald is with Lipshultz & Hone Chtd. In Silver Spring.
Wilson, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Alleged that American Airlines failed to ensure that its operators and crew on Flight 331 “used standard, reasonably prudent and acceptable piloting techniques” in landing at the Kingston airport. The company also failed “to properly navigate and/or operate the subject aircraft in a safe and competent manner given the prevailing weather, visibility and runway conditions” and to comply with the landing instructions from the Jamaican control tower, the complaint stated.
Wilson’s claim was filed in the Miami federal court in the interest of judicial economy as the overwhelming majority of cases from the Kingston crash were already pending there, Solter said.
Wilson and the other litigants did not bring their claims against American Airlines as a class but the plaintiffs’ attorneys did occasionally combine resources in fighting motions by the company, Solter said.
One pending motion is American Airlines’ request for a summary judgement ruling to prevent the remaining plaintiffs from seeking compensation for emotional distress related to the crash itself.
Courts have yet to decide whether such post-traumatic stress claims can be brought against airlines under the Montreal Convention, Lipowitz said, adding that final resolution of that issue could take years due to the long appellate process.
That decision – whenever it comes – will not affect Wilson’s case, as it has been settled, Lipowitz added.
Solter and Lipowitz handled Wilson’s case with the law firm of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, Fla.
IN RE: AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 331
Court: U.S. District Court, Miami
Case No.: 1:10-cv-20131-JAL
Judge: Joan A. Lenard
Outcome: Confidential settlement
Event: Dec 22, 2009
Suit filed: July 28, 2011
Settlement: July 2, 2013
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: John R. Solter Jr. and Judson H. Lipowitz of Azrael, Franz, Schwab & Lipowitz LLC in Towson and Curtis B. Miner of Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, Fla.
Defendants’ Attorney: Ronald G. DeWald of Lipshultz & Hone Chtd. in Silver Spring and Marty F. Elfenbein of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in Miami.
Count: Claims for damages under the Montreal Convention