Cases & Deals

Pilatus resolves aircraft accident cases arising out of 2009 crash of Pilatus PC-12 Legacy aircraft

Client(s) Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. and Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd.

Jones Day defended Pilatus Aircraft and Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd. in aircraft accident cases filed in Los Angeles, California Superior Court. The cases arose out of the crash of a Pilatus PC-12 Legacy aircraft on March 22, 2009 during a diverted landing in Butte, Montana. When the pilot failed to fuel the aircraft with the required anti-icing additive, fuel system icing occurred during flight, causing a weight imbalance between the wings. The imbalance continued to increase when the pilot chose to fly past several alternate airports instead of landing as soon as practical. The plane crashed on final approach, claiming the lives of 6 adults, 7 children, and the pilot.

Following extensive investigations by several government authorities, surviving family members filed suit alleging various defect and negligence theories against the aircraft manufacturer, component part manufacturers, airports, and fuelers. Plaintiffs sought economic and non-economic compensatory damages. Pilatus' position was that the accident was caused by the experienced pilot's errors in failing to follow the Airplane Flight Manual and the negligence of the aircraft owner.

Discovery proceeded for several years, with over 40 fact witnesses being deposed in four countries. 24 experts were designated in areas such as accident reconstruction, airplane and component part design, aerodynamics, piloting, metallurgy, weather, radar, aircraft operations, and medical. Plaintiffs designated 50 witnesses to testify on damages. After summary judgment motions, completion of expert discovery, and the filing of extensive pretrial motions raising evidentiary and expert issues, the case was assigned to the Long Cause division for trial beginning on June 2, 2015.

Shortly after oral argument on Pilatus' motion for bifurcation, and before the trial judge began oral argument on pretrial motions, the parties negotiated a settlement successfully resolving the case.

Robert Ching v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., No. BC 457650 (Super. Ct. Los Angeles Cty., Cal.); Judy Jacobson v. Pilatus Aircraft, Ltd., No. BC 457836 (Super. Ct. Los Angeles Cty., Cal.)