Aviation Litigation

Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein’s aviation attorneys have represented domestic and foreign airlines, product manufacturers, general aviation operations, repair stations, airport owners, ground handlers, and insurers in catastrophic injury, wrongful death, and property damage claims arising out of major airline disasters, general aviation accidents, and other incidents for more than four decades. We also represent our aviation and aerospace clients in racial and disability discrimination claims, breach of contract matters, and general and complex business disputes.

We recognize that many 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.

Our attorneys have the 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.

Our firm is uniquely situated to protect the interests of our clients nationwide. In Los Angeles, Art Willner has more than 40 years of experience in cases involving serious personal injury, wrongful death and property loss arising out of airline incidents, including more than a dozen major disasters and terrorist attacks, as well as general aviation accidents. Art began his career in-house within the central claims office of a major aviation insurer, and has personal insight into the market’s requirements of its defense counsel. He is supported by teams of talented and experienced partners and associates in the firm’s New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas offices. 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 nationwide team of lawyers with the technology tools and experience to deal effectively with multi-district litigation arising out of major incidents or disasters wherever the lawsuits are filed.
  • The understanding of the importance of our clients’ brand, and 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.

Notable Engagements

  • Represented a major domestic airline in nearly 100 wrongful death claims, consolidated in the Northern District of California, arising out of a crash of an MD-80 off the California coast.
  • Represented the captain and first officer of a major domestic airline in connection with dozens of passenger injury lawsuits in the Central District of California arising out of a landing accident at Burbank Airport. Won summary judgment on the passengers’ punitive damages claims.
  • Headed up the defense of ten foreign non-carriers in the multidistrict federal litigation arising out of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which ended in a voluntary dismissal.
  • Coordinated the defense of an FAA repair station against lawsuits in multiple states for wrongful death, injury, and real property/flight simulator losses alleged in the tens of millions of dollars, all arising from a King Air crash into the FlightSafety International building in Wichita, Kansas.
  • Obtained defense verdict at jury trial in state court in Los Angeles in wrongful death action against business jet operator arising out of crash of Cessna CJ during takeoff from Van Nuys, California Airport.
  • Obtained defense verdict at jury 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.
  • Represented and obtained extremely favorable settlement on behalf of 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.
  • Representing one of the largest turbine engine FAA repair stations nationwide for twenty years.
  • Won summary judgment for Sikorsky Aircraft in multiple military aircraft accident cases invoking the government contractor defense.
  • Representing one of the largest FBO firms nationwide in a variety of matters, including favorable appeal on known risks of jet blasts (Collins v. Westchester County Airport, 83 A.D.3d 882 (New York 2d Dep’t 2011)).
  • Working with various underwriters at Lloyds to draft and issue liability and hull insurance policies for unmanned aviation systems (“drones”).

    Arthur I. Willner


    Joseph I. Fontak


    Joseph G. Colao

    Managing Partner

    Edward Martinovich


    Glen Silverstein

    Managing Partner

    Brian K. Cifuentes


    Jess Coleman


    Recent Developments in Aviation Law

    Arthur Willner and Ray Mariani, members of the Leader Berkon Colao & Silverstein Aviation Litigation team, have authored "Recent Developments in Aviation Law", which was just published by the SMU Journal of Air Law and Commerce in its annual symposium edition....

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