LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Comair has settled all but five liability lawsuits stemming from a Kentucky plane crash that killed 49 people in 2006, and the airline was making a final push to resolve the others and avoid a trial set to begin next week.
Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx declined Thursday to release details of the settlements or disclose which cases remained, citing confidentiality agreements with family members. Calls by The
Associated Press to several plaintiffs' lawyers involved in the
case were not immediately returned Thursday.
The five unresolved cases were filed on behalf of five different
crash victims, Marx said. One of those cases was filed in Florida
and wouldn't have gone to trial next week anyway, she said.
That leaves four lawsuits for U.S. District judge Karl Forester to sort out in Lexington and heightens the prospects that if a trial does go forward, it could resolve all the cases that remain.
The trial is currently set to focus on three example cases, with
hopes a jury verdict in those would spur the remaining parties to
"We have dedicated ourselves to reaching resolutions with the
families, and our commitment to fair settlements still stands,"
In an interview Wednesday, attorney Peter Perlman said there was
a wide gap in negotiations between Comair and his clients, family
members of one of the victims, former Lexington horse breeder George Brunacini. As of Wednesday, Perlman said the Brunacini case wasn't one of those scheduled for trial, but the list of example cases seemed to change almost by the hour.
"I know other discussions are possible," Perlman said. "Is it
possible that all of them would be settled? I don't know."
One of Perlman's other clients, Sara Fortney, the widow of C.W.
Fortney who died in the crash, did settle her case recently.
Attorney Louise Roselle, who recently helped settle cases on behalf of the estates of Joanne Wright and Cecile Moscoe, said some families may want to go to trial to make sure all the facts get out. Others, such as her clients, are determined to keep their cases out of court.
"For our clients, coming down to Lexington and sitting in a courtroom for two or three weeks and hearing all this again was not going to be a pleasant experience," Roselle said.
The lawsuits contend Comair was negligent because its pilots steered the airplane in the pre-dawn darkness to the wrong runway, one that was too short for a proper takeoff. The jet hit trees and a perimeter fence before crashing in a farm adjacent to Lexington's Blue Grass Airport.
Besides compensatory damages, which factor in the projected earnings potential of each victim, many of the families are suing Comair for punitive damages and compensation for pain and suffering, believing their loved ones survived the initial impact.
Some of the suits also targeted the federal government because the Federal Aviation Administration runs the air traffic control tower, which Comair contends was partly to blame.
Also named in some of the suits was the lone survivor, co-pilot James Polehinke. It was unclear whether Polehinke was still named in any of the remaining cases.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)