Aviation litigation

Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein’s aviation attorneys have represented airlines, product manufacturers, general aviation operators, repair stations and insurers in catastrophic injury, wrongful death and products liability claims arising out of major airline disasters, general aviation accidents, and other incidents. We also defend our aviation clients in racial and disability discrimination claims, breach of contract matters, and general business disputes.

Our attorneys have technical, regulatory, and legal knowledge critical to the effective handling of aviation cases. We aggressively pursue discovery within the guidelines established upon assignment, with the goal to place the matter in a posture enabling our client to reach a decision as to settlement versus trial at the earliest possible time.

The firm's aviation group is comprised of seasoned litigators and is led by an aviation defense attorney with more than 35 years of experience in cases ranging from routine tort and contract claims to major accidents and terrorist incidents.One of the firm's founding partners, Fred Berkon, tried one of the most complex aviation liability cases relating to the crash of the Texas Gulf corporate jet in which the company's board of directors was killed.  Additionally, the group leader has worked within the aviation insurance industry and has insight into the market's requirements of its defense counsel. As such, our attorneys can offer our aviation clients the following:

  • An approach to litigation that emphasizes the client's need to make an early assessment of the liability and damage issues in a case, and the experience and resources to take any case through trial when necessary.
  • A team of lawyers with technology tools and experience to deal effectively with multi-district litigation arising out of major incidents or disasters.
  • The understanding that "winning" a case at a cost that far exceeds its potential value or that results in adverse publicity to our client is rarely desirable.
  • Pre-litigation counseling with respect to liability issues and emergency preparedness, and post-accident counseling and witness preparation concerning NTSB investigations and hearings.

We recognize that most aviation cases do not improve with age. We are confident that our use of "best practices" risk assessment will enable clients to make informed decisions on whether litigation is appropriate.

Notable Engagements

  • Represented the owner and operator of a medical evacuation helicopter involved in a fatal crash.
  • Headed up the defense of ten foreign non-carriers in the multidistrict federal litigation over the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which ended with a voluntary dismissal.
  • Represented domestic and London-based aviation insurers as well as aircraft owners and lessors in a spectrum of litigation.
  • Represented an international airline in 80+ wrongful death claims arising out of a crash off the California coast. The actions were subject to multi-district consolidation in the Northern District of California.
  • Represented the captain and first officer of a domestic airline in connection with the passenger injury claims arising out of an accident at the Burbank, California airport when an airplane went through a perimeter fence and onto a city street after landing. The federal court for the Central District of California granted the pilots' motion for summary judgment on the coordinated plaintiffs' punitive damages claim.
  • Obtained summary judgment for a domestic carrier (affirmed by the California Court of Appeal) in an action brought by an obese passenger who was required to purchase two tickets. The court ruled that the airline's requirement was neither discriminatory nor outrageous as a matter of law.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of airline in a discrimination action in which the plaintiffs (two California Highway Patrol officers) claimed to have been the victims of post-9/11 racial profiling.
  • Participated in the Southern District of New York in one of the most protracted aviation trials concerning the crash of the Texasgulf corporate jet that killed the company's CEO and three vice presidents.
  • Defense verdict at trial in federal court in Los Angeles in wrongful death case against major airline alleging failure to provide adequate in-flight medical care to passenger who suffered fatal heart attack.
  • Defense verdict at trial in state court in Los Angeles in wrongful death case against business jet operator arising out of crash of Cessna CJ following takeoff from Van Nuys Airport.
  • Represented Part 145 repair station in state court in Los Angeles in $10 million property damage case arising out of crash of Sikorsky twin-engine helicopter while performing external lifts from roof of Raytheon building near LAX.