Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Court Tosses Lawsuits Against Florida Pilot Over Plane Crash: Dana Air, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-83 (MD-83), 5N-RAM, fatal accident occurred June 03, 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria

The families of non-U.S. citizens killed in a 2012 plane crash in Nigeria will not be able to pursue their lawsuits against the estate of the pilot, who was from Florida, in American courts, a panel of federal judges ruled.

Instead, those families will have to seek justice from Nigerian courts, based on the ruling released Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The decision effectively scuttles 38 lawsuits combined on appeal.

Judge John Walker Jr. of the Second Circuit, sitting by designation, wrote for a panel that included Judge Stanley Marcus and Senior Judge Joel Dubina. The panel upheld Judge Robert Scola of the Southern District of Florida in dismissing the lawsuits based on forum non conveniens—a common law doctrine that provides district courts with "inherent power to decline to exercise jurisdiction" with the "central purpose" being "to ensure that the trial is convenient."

The doctrine allows judges to toss lawsuits, leaving the plaintiffs to resort to refiling in another place. "This power should not be exercised lightly, however, because it effectively deprives the plaintiff of his favored forum," Walker wrote.

The defense team, led by John Murray of Murray Morin & Herman in Tampa, successfully established the difficulty of calling witnesses from Nigeria to a trial in Florida.

The plaintiffs' team, including Curtis Miner of Colson Hicks Eidson and Michael Olin of Miami, argued that Nigeria is too dangerous and that its legal system is corrupt and plagued with delays. A former Nigerian Supreme Court justice testified that such a multiparty tort case could take 30 years to litigate there, Walker said.

But Walker gave credence to another witness, a Nigerian law professor, who said recent reforms to the Nigerian judiciary had improved the outlook, and that the claims could be resolved in possibly five years.

"The district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that Nigeria is an adequate forum," Walker said.

The attorneys could not be reached.

All 153 people aboard Dana Airlines Flight 992—passengers, crew and pilot Peter Waxtan of Fort Lauderdale—were killed in the crash on June 3, 2012, plus 10 more on the ground. The plane traveling from Abuja, Nigeria, lost power in both engines while on approach to Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, according to Walker. The plane and much of the black box evidence was destroyed in the fire. The crash was blamed on a combination of equipment failure and flight crew error.

The cases are titled Babasola Kolawolfe, et al. v. Stacey Sellers, as personal representative of the estate of Peter Waxtan, Nos. 15-13720 & 15-15801.


NTSB Identification: DCA12RA084
Accident occurred Sunday, June 03, 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria
Aircraft: BOEING MD-83, registration:
Injuries: 153 Fatal.

The foreign authority was the source of this information.

On June 3, 2012 about 1545 hours local time, 5N-RAM, a Boeing MD-83, operated by Dana Airlines Limited as flight 992 (DAN 992), crashed into a densely populated area during a forced landing following a total loss of power in both engines while on approach to Muhammed Murtala Airport (LOS), Lagos, Nigeria. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time, and the airplane was on an instrument flight rules flight plan. All 153 persons aboard the airplane, including the 6 crew members, were fatally injured. There were 10 confirmed ground fatalities. The airplane was destroyed, and there was a post impact fire. The domestic scheduled commercial flight was operating from Abuja International Airport(ABV), Abuja, Nigeria to LOS. 

The Nigeria Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) has instituted an investigation. As the State of manufacture of the airplane and engines, a U.S. Accredited Representative has been appointed with technical advisors from the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, The Boeing Company, and Pratt & Whitney Engines. Inquires about the investigation should be directed to the AIB at the following address:

Accident Investigation Bureau
P.M.B. 016
Murtala Muhammed Airport
Ikeja, Lagos


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