BEAR CREEK CRASH
THE SCRANTON TIMES - December 6, 2003
(Note: Attorney Joe Quinn, Senior Litigation Principal of HKQ Law, was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in this case.)
THE SCRANTON TIMES - December 6, 2003
Families to Receive Millions
Seventeen passengers and two pilots died in the wreck in May 2000.
By MICHAEL McNARNEY
SCRANTON - More than $32 million will be paid to settle lawsuits filed by families of the 17 passengers killed when their plane crashed in Bear Creek Township in 2000, according to a lead lawyer for the families.
The plane's owner and operator, Executive Airlines, is paying seven-eighths of the settlement, or $28,218,750, said attorney Joseph Quinn Jr. The BA-31 Jetstream's manufacturer, BAE Systems plc, is paying one-eighth, or $4,031,250. The total settlement is $32,250,000.
The National Transportation Safety Board said last year the plane, which crashed May 21, 2000, ran out of fuel. The 17 passengers, from Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, along with two New York-based pilots died when their plane crashed near Interstate 476 on its second approach to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport. The passengers were returning from a gambling trip to Atlantic City.
Attorneys will be paid around $7.66 million, which will be subtracted from the total settlement. Also to be subtracted is about $750,000 in costs associated with the suits.
That leaves about $23,845,000 to be paid to the families. The money will not be split evenly between the families, Quinn said. The payment varies depending on the victim's situation - among them age, earning power, whether survivors were under 18 or living at home.
The settlement was made public Friday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Scranton. Its disclosure came about after the Scranton Times and The Tribune of Scranton filed court papers asking that the information be made public.
A reporter for The Times was kicked out of court Nov. 14 when settlement talks came up. The paper's lawyer, J. Timothy Hinton, sought the opening of settlement talks in papers filed Nov. 24.
The disclosure was part of a compromise between the newspapers and the lawyers for the families. Quinn said families did not want individual settlement amounts revealed, and Hinton said the paper agreed not to pursue individual settlement amounts through other means.
Though Judge Richard Caputo presided over Friday's hearing, he did not make a ruling; the lawyers involved discussed the matter and then read the settlement and other figures out loud to satisfy the newspapers' desire to make them public.
After costs and attorneys' fees, families of these 17 passengers will divide almost $24 million:
Frances Appel, Plains Township; Donna Barbini Cali, Dunmore; Eugene Decker, Dalton; Gerald Decker, Fleetville; Sharon Decker, Fleetville; Florence Erhardt, Cherry Ridge Township; Wayne Frantz, Hawley; Joan Fumanti, Mountaintop; Bernard Kachinko Sr., Larksville; Joan Kunkle, Wilkes-Barre; Nancy Maleski, Moosic; Elaine Maleski Pilosi, Moosic; Diane Schwartz, Slocum Township; Bob Supatoski, North Scranton; Lillian Supatoski, North Scranton; Andrea Yanchausky, Exeter; and Dolores Yanchausky, Exeter.
Pilots Can Basat of Hicksville, N.Y. and Gregory Macvicar of Farmingville, N.Y. also died in the crash. Their families were not a party to the settlement.
THE CITIZENS' VOICE - WILKES-BARRE, PA
December 6, 2003
Air Crash Suit Settled for $32.25 million
By RICH MATES
Times-Shamrock News Writer
The families of 17 passengers killed in a May 2000 plane crash in Luzerne County will share the largest personal injury settlement in area history.
Lawyers told U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo on Friday that a $32.25 million settlement had been reached involving the Bear Creek Township crash of an Executive Airlines charter flight that ran out of fuel.
Executive Airlines, which is out of business, paid 87.5 percent or $28.25 million of the settlement while BAE Systems, the company that built the British Aerospace J-3101 turboprop plane, paid 12.5 percent or $4 million.
Major details of the settlements were revealed Friday to resolve legal action by the Times-Tribune newspapers to unseal court records.
Attorney J. Timothy Hinton, representing the papers, dropped the papers' legal action and agreed not to pursue efforts to identify amounts paid to individual families by the defendants.
Hinton said it is the largest personal injury settlement ever in this area.
"But remember, it represents 17 families," he said.
From the gross amount of the settlement, legal fees of $7.655 million and expenses of approximately $750,000 will be deducted, leaving $24.845 million to be paid out to the various estates.
Pennsylvania law limits damages in such cases and families will receive differing amounts. Families of passengers who were elderly or were not working or retired had less of an economic loss than others who were younger or were employed, according to the formula for damages.
The National Transportation Safety Board ruled the plane ran out of fuel on May 21, 2000, on its way from Atlantic City to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
NTSB testimony showed the fuel gauges were defective, but neither the pilot nor co-pilot used the alternate dipstick method to determine how much fuel was aboard and did not verify the amount of fuel taken on in a refueling.
Attorney Dan Brier, who along with attorney Sal Cognetti Jr. represented multiple families, said independent warning lights that would have notified the pilot that less than 250 pounds of jet fuel remained in the wing tanks were not heeded either.
"I would feel this (crash) was something that was avoidable," said aviation attorney Dan Barks of the Speiser Krause Madole and Nolan law firm, Arlington, Va.
Much of the $750,000 in expenses went for expert testimony that tried to piece together what happened in the 4.