Major Accident Litigation

For more than 60 years the firm has been at the forefront of litigation arising from commercial aviation disasters.  We have represented victims from virtually every major aviation crash that has occurred both domestically and internationally, and partners from the firm have been appointed to numerous Plaintiffs’ Steering Committees formed to prosecute the litigation on behalf of all victims. 

Mass aviation disaster litigation is unlike any other as only those attorneys who have developed significant experience in this field will be able to navigate the myriad of issues that are involved in these types of cases.  For example, the international aviation accident presents complex issues related to treaty jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, and choice of law, to name a few.  It is imperative that the victim’s family be represented by counsel who understand and have litigated these issues time and again.  The partners at Speiser Krause have the necessary experience, skill and compassion to help a grieving family through this difficult process.

The domestic aviation mass disaster litigation likewise presents complex issues that can only be mastered through extensive experience.  Lawyers from the firm have this unique experience and have taken leadership roles in virtually every crash in which the attorneys have represented family members.  We have devoted ourselves to our clients and have been able to achieve the highest results possible.  Equally as important, we are able to guide our clients through the unfamiliar legal process during what is likely the most difficult time of their lives. 

The firm has also been involved in recent high-profile terrorist litigations arising from the September 11th Terrorist Attacks and the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which resulted in a settlement of 2.7 billion dollars on behalf of the 270 victims of that tragedy.  Frank Granito III directly participated in the negotiations with the Libyan government which resulted in that historic settlement.

The following is a brief list of recent cases in which members of the firm have been involved:

Continental Connection Flight 3407

The crash of a commuter turboprop aircraft that crashed on approach to runway 23 of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  The flight crew made a series of mistakes that led to a premature aural stall warning.  In response, the Captain of the aircraft made an improper pilot input which caused the aircraft to enter an aerodynamic stall from which the crew could not recover.    Members of the firm were appointed Co-Lead counsel on behalf of all of the victims of this tragedy arising.

Comair Flight 5191

A regional commuter jet crashed at the Bluegrass Airport located in Lexington, Kentucky when the flight crew attempted to depart from the wrong runway.  The runway was too short to allow the aircraft to gain sufficient speed for take-off, which caused the aircraft to run off the end of the runway, strike a berm and trees resulting in a post-impact fire.  All forty seven passengers were killed in the crash.  Partners from the firm were appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee and played a significant role in the extensive discovery that took place in the litigation.

American Airlines Flight 587

American Airlines Flight 587 crashed shortly after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic when the vertical fin on the Airbus A300-605 model aircraft broke off in-flight rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. The aircraft crashed into a residential neighborhood in Belle Harbor, New York killing all 260 persons aboard and five individuals on the ground. The firm represented more than sixty decedents, including passengers and individuals who were killed on the ground.

September 11th Terrorist Attacks

The firm represented more than 150 individuals who were on board the aircraft and killed on the ground when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the towers at the World trade Center.  The firm was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee formed to litigate the cases on behalf of all of the victims and partners from the firm were appointed to the Steering Committees in relation to the wrongful deaths that occurred at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA; as well as the property damage that occurred at the World Trade Center site.

Swissair Flight 111

An MD-11 model aircraft departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport for its flight to Geneva, Switzerland when approximately an hour and forty five minutes into the flight the crew detected smoke in the cockpit.  The flight crew attempted to discover the origin of the smoke but were unable to do so.  They then contacted air traffic control and advised of the problem.  By this time, however, the problem turned into an uncontrolled fire caused by faulty wiring which ignited flammable material in the ceiling above the cockpit.  229 passengers and crew were killed when the aircraft crashed into the waters off of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.  The firm represented more than 40 families whose loved ones were killed in the crash.

ValuJet Flight 592

The crash of the DC-9 aircraft occurred on its flight from Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.  Shortly after take-off an uncontrolled fire breached the cabin and flight deck causing the aircraft to crash into the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 persons on board.  The fire and crash were caused by improperly stored oxygen generators which ignited during the take-off roll.  A now-defunct maintenance facility was criminally charged for its role in the falsification of maintenance records and the improper storage and packaging of the oxygen generators.  The firm represented more than a dozen victims of this tragedy.

TWA Flight 800

The Boeing 747-100 model aircraft crashed into the waters off of Long Island, New York shortly after take-off from John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing all 230 passengers and crew.  The investigation resulted in the largest reconstruction of aircraft wreckage to date, and uncovered that the crash was caused by an electrical current that entered the near empty center wing fuel tank through the Fuel Quantity Indication System.  The current ignited the fuel vapors in the tank, causing an in-flight explosion which crippled the aircraft.  As a result of this crash, commercial aircraft manufacturers are now required to inert their fuel tanks to prevent an explosion of the volatile fuel/air mixture.  The firm represented more than 60 families, including all of the families from Montoursville, Pennsylvania whose loved ones were travelling to France for a high school trip. 

Indeed, members of the firm have held leadership roles in nearly every major air disaster litigation that has been brought over the course of the last 65 years: including, in addition to those mentioned above, the 1949 crash of an Air France Lockheed Constellation in the Azores (Stu Speiser); the 1949 American Airlines DC-6 Love Field crash (Stu Speiser); the 1952 American Airlines Convair crash near Newark Airport (Stu Speiser); the 1952 National Airlines DC-6 crash near Newark Airport (Stu Speiser); the 1956 midair collision of TWA Flight 2 and United Airlines Flight 718 over the Grand Canyon (Stu Speiser); the 1957 Northeast Airlines Rikers Island crash (Stu Speiser); the 1959 crash of an American Airlines Lockheed Electra at LGA (Stu Speiser); the 1960 United Airlines-TWA Airlines mid-air collision over Staten Island; the 1967 TWA Convair 880 crash at Cincinnati Airport (Gerry Lear); the 1970 Southern Airways DC-9 crash at Huntington, West Virginia (Gerry Lear); the 1970 Wichita State University football team crash in Colorado (Frank Granito, Jr. and Gerry Lear); the 1971 Alaska Airlines Boeing 727 crash at Juneau, Alaska (Don Madole); the 1971 Apache Airlines crash at Coolidge, Arizona (Frank Granito, Jr.); the 1972 Eastern Airlines Lockheed L-1011 crash in the Florida Everglades (Don Madole and Gerry Lear); the 1973 Delta Airlines crash at Boston Airport (Chuck Krause); the 1974 Turkish Airlines DC-10 crash in France (Don Madole); the 1974 TWA crash off the coast of Greece (Chuck Krause); the 1974 TWA crash on approach to Dulles Airport (Phil Silverman); the 1975 c Eastern Airlines Flight 66 crash at JFK Airport (Frank Granito, Jr.); the 1977 Pan Am – KLM collision at Tenerife, Canary Islands (Chuck Krause); the 1977 Southern Airways crash in New Hope, Georgia (Don Madole); the 1979 American Airlines DC-10 crash at O’Hare Airport (Don Madole); the 1974 Eastern Airlines crash at Charlotte, North Carolina (Gerry Lear); the 1974 TWA crash near Upperville, Virginia (Gerry Lear); the 1983 Air Canada DC-9 fire disaster at Cincinnati, Ohio (Gerry Lear); the 1985 Arrow Air DC-8 crash near Gander, Newfoundland (Gerry Lear); the 1985 Galaxy Airlines Lockheed Electra crash at Reno, Nevada (Gerry Lear); the 1987 Northwest Airlines MD-80 crash at Detroit Metro Airport (Gerry Lear); the 1992 USAir F-28 crash at LGA (Gerry Lear and Ken Nolan); the 1994 USAir Boeing 737 crash near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Frank Granito, Jr.); and the Valuejet tragedy of May 11, 1992 (Gerry Lear).



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