When travelling by air, planes, helicopters and other air transports often travel over State lines, raising the question of at what venue does the trial occur. When an air accident transpires, two federal agencies are responsible for regulating the investigation: (1) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and (2) the National Transpiration Safety Board (NTSB). The FAA sets the rules and standards for how a pilot operates, proper flight procedures, aircraft maintenance and manufacturing standards and is responsible for enforcing these rules through civil and criminal penalties. On the other hand, the NTSB is in charge of any investigations involving an aircraft accident and then makes recommendations to the FAA based on their analysis in an attempt to mitigate future air accidents.
As discussed previously, liability of air accidents typically falls into two categories, negligence and products’ liability. Negligence includes pilot error, improper maintenance or servicing of the aircraft, and the non-adherence to the rules and standards set by the FAA and NTSB, among others; whereas, products’ liability is typically as a result to a manufacturing error or a sale of a defective product. Some times, causation of an accident is due to the combination of both negligence and product liability by the manufacturer. In addition, there are instances where the operator and or staff of an aircraft are entitled to a workers’ compensation claim due to owner or manufacturing error by a third party. As you can see, aviation law is a complex area of practice, with many different entities involved with the causation as well as oversight of the circumstance.
Where to file a lawsuit? When a airplane, helicopter or other aircraft goes down during flight, it may not be best to file or retain a lawyer in the jurisdiction of the accident location. Choosing the proper venue is a very important factor in litigation strategy. Under Federal Law, a party may file a lawsuit where the defendant resides or where the accident took place.
(b) VENUE IN GENERAL.—A civil action may be brought in: (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or (3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action. (c)RESIDENCY.—For all venue purposes— (1) a natural person, including an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States, shall be deemed to reside in the judicial district in which that person is domiciled; (2) an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its common name under applicable law, whether or not incorporated, shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question and, if a plaintiff, only in the judicial district in which it maintains its principal place of business; and (3) a defendant not resident in the United States may be sued in any judicial district, and the joinder of such a defendant shall be disregarded in determining where the action may be brought with respect to other defendants.
For instance, on February 10, 2018, nearly 17 years after the last Papillon helicopter crash, a second Papillon helicopter accident went down with seven victims in a remote area of Arizona, but the helicopter operator was in Nevada, and the manufacturer was from France. . As the NHTSB continues to investigate to determine the cause of the accident, intelligent lawyers will be deciding where the best venue is to file the lawsuit that took place in Arizona where at least 3 have died (the lawsuit) can be filed in Clark County, Nevada where the operator Papillon helicopters is located.
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) Venue, the appropriate place to file a lawsuit is anywhere it could have been brought under 28 US Code 1391 which states under (1) where any defendant resides. This would mean France or Nevada. Obviously, France is not a preferred venue for victims who live in the United States, so under 1391 (c) (3) the law allows the lawsuit against Eurocopter in any jurisdiction in the United States. Given Papillon is in Nevada, Nevada is the most prudent venue for this particular helicopter accident as both can be sued here. Benson & Bingham are helicopter crash attorneys with licenses dating back to 2000. We will come to you in the event you are a local resident.
Nevada is an appropriate forum to litigate the helicopter accident as the operating company Papillon was from Boulder City, Nevada, located in the County of Clark—Nevada’s largest jurisdiction for lawsuits. Because most of the responding rescue personnel are from Nevada including the Nellis Air Force base, and all medical treatment and witnesses will be from UMC in Las Vegas, Nevada makes the most sense to file a helicopter negligence and product’s liability action against the operator and manufacturer of the helicopter involved in Clark County, Nevada. As a result, personal Injury attorneys in Nevada should be lead counsel in any lawsuit.