Appeals Court Vindicates Victims’ Choice

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Appeals Court Vindicates Victims’ Choice
Decides Southwest Airlines Chicago Midway Crash Should Be Heard in State Court

Chicago, Illinois, April 27, 2007 - - The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the lead plaintiffs in the Southwest Airlines Chicago Midway crash-landing shall be heard in state court.

Lead plaintiffs, Mariko Bennett and Stanley Penn filed suit on December 20, 2005 in Illinois state court in Chicago against Southwest Airlines, Boeing and the City of Chicago on account of injuries sustained when their flight crash-landed at Chicago’s Midway airport on December 8, 2005.

The defendants removed the cases to federal court, where they believed they would have a more favorable forum. Although the federal judge decided to keep the case, Bennett and Penn appealed to the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals contending that they had the right to choose which court should hear their cases, and they had chosen state court.

The Court of Appeals, in a strongly worded opinion issued on April 26, 2007, agreed with Bennett and Penn, saying that cases such as this "are governed by context-sensitive doctrines such as the law of negligence." The court held that even though federal aviation regulations might apply, they only set minimum standards of conduct. Thus, the claims do not arise under federal law. "[W]hether to land is a decision made by the pilot rather than federal regulators and is influenced by factors such as whether all safety equipment is functional and whether the crew has experience with snow." This opinion affects all the SWA Chicago Midway crash cases originally filed in Illinois state court.

"This case represents a victory for the rights of victims to choose, in appropriate cases, the court they want to hear their case," said Ronald L. M. Goldman, lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs, whose firm, along with Rapoport Law Offices of Chicago, represents a total of nine passengers from this crash.

The original lawsuit filed on December 20, 2005 alleges that Southwest Airlines, Boeing, and the City of Chicago, are guilty of negligence, conscious disregard for safety and strict liability for causing Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 to run off Runway 31C and crash-land during a snowstorm. The Boeing 737-700 plowed through an airport perimeter fence and onto a busy street, striking several vehicles. The plane landed on top of a car, killing a young boy and injuring his family members. Passengers suffered fear, pre-impact terror, post-crash fear of fire, emotional distress, and physical injury.

About Ronald L. M. Goldman: Ron is a senior partner and trial attorney at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC based in Los Angeles and was a lead attorney handling the discovery and deposition efforts in the similar Southwest runway crash where SWA Flight 1455 over-ran the runway on landing at Burbank, California on March 5, 2000. Ron is Board Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocates as a Certified Civil Trial Advocate and has been practicing law for more than 40 years. He is also a private pilot. He taught for 21 years at Pepperdine School of Law as an adjunct Law Professor, where he developed and taught the course on Aviation Accident Law. Baum Hedlund has represented passengers in 57 airline crashes.