Relatives of victims of the worst air crash in Brazil's history have had their compensation claims rejected by a US judge on jurisdictional grounds.
 
District judge Marcia Cooke ruled on 21 August that the Florida court was an inappropriate forum to hear claims relating to the 2007 accident involving a plane operated by Brazilian airline TAM at São Paulo's Congonhas airport, in which 200 people died.
 
"TAM is a Brazilian corporation and the suits against it arise from actions and obligations that were to be performed in Brazil by TAM and its employees," said Cooke. "Plaintiffs have not significantly challenged either the availability or adequacy of Brazil [as a forum]."
 
The suits, filed last year, also name the plane's manufacturer, France's Airbus, as co-defendant, along with Connecticut-based engine builder International Aero Engines and North Carolina's Goodrich Corporation, which installed the plane's nacelles.
 
The motion to dismiss the case was brought by the French and US co-defendants, not TAM, which has settled privately with the plaintiffs.
 
Cooke said that the ease of access to evidence and the cost of transporting witnesses weighed in favour of holding the hearings in Brazil. Of the 77 plaintiffs, only one is a US citizen and the rest are Brazilian.
 
Domestic TAM flight 3054 from Porto Alegre overshot its runway in July 2007, crashing into a warehouse and fuelling station and killing all 181 passengers, six crew members and 12 people on the ground.
 
The crash, described by the judge as "the worst in Brazilian aviation history", has resulted in litigation, parliamentary enquiries, criminal investigations and multiple indictments in Brazil, as well as an investigation by the country's airline disaster agency, CENIPA.
 
TAM is taking Brazilian counsel from Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice Advogados. TAM's insurers, which include Brazil's Unibanco, are represented by Clyde & Co's Martyn Plaskett in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Counsel to the plaintiffs
 
           Podhurst, Orseck, Josefsberg, Eaton, Meadow, Olin & Perwin, PA
 
Partners Aaron Podhurst, Joel Eaton, Ricardo Martinez-Cid and Steven Marks
 
           Hoffman & Hoffman
 
Partner John Hoffman
 
Counsel to TAM Linhas Aereas
 
           Fowler White Burnett, PA
 
Partners Christopher Knight and Helaine Goodner
 
Counsel to Airbus
 
           Hogan & Hartson LLP
 
Partners Thad Dameris, Trevor Jefferies, Bruce Oakley and Alvin Lindsey and associate Christopher Odell
 
Counsel to Goodrich Corporation
 
           Cole Scott & Kissane
 
Partner Thomas Scott and associate William Gilmore
 
Counsel to International Aero Engines
 
           Cozen O'Connor
 
Partners Raquel Fernandez and Richard Dunn
 
SP
 
(Latin Lawyer 26.08.2009)
 
(Notícia na Íntegra)