Goldberg Segalla LLP acted as primary trial counsel in the defense of a commercial aviation disaster, one of only a few such trials conducted in the United States in the last 30 years. Partnering with Condon & Forsyth LLP, the firm defended the regional airline and its parent company in the litigation that arose from the February 2009 crash of Colgan Flight 3407 in a suburban neighborhood northeast of Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The cause of the crash, which resulted in the deaths of 50 people, was pilot error leading to aerodynamic stall, followed by erroneous response to the stall.
Litigation followed in United States District Court and in New York Supreme Court. The federal court cases were consolidated for discovery in multi-district litigation in the Western District of New York, while the state court cases proceeded under a combined case management plan. Except for a 13-month period during which a bankruptcy stay was in effect, litigation proceeded aggressively for more than five years.
More than 200 depositions of fact and expert witnesses were conducted. Extensive motion practice ensued, on issues relating to discovery, the reliability of proffered expert testimony, the application of the legal standard of care, the limiting of trial evidence, and the viability of punitive damage claims.
Intensive mediation led to the successful resolution of all federal cases by early 2014. Litigation of the state court cases continued thereafter. Key rulings were issued by the State Supreme Court justice in the summer of 2014 establishing the legal standard of care to be applied to determination of liability, and dismissing plaintiffs’ punitive damage claims. All but one of the remaining state court cases resolved shortly thereafter.
The final litigated matter, brought by the survivors of a decedent killed in a home struck by the plane, proceeded to trial in September 2014. Following nine weeks of trial, a confidential, favorable resolution of the case was reached, bringing the trial to a close.