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Local attorney offers thoughts on air crash

wilson-post-logoThe Wilson Post | March 28, 2014

Read the full article at www.WilsonPost.com - Click Here!

Local attorney offers thoughts on air crash

Families and friends of the victims who lost their lives in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crash have a long road ahead of them in learning what caused the plane to crash into the Indian Ocean on March 8, a Lebanon attorney said.

Keith Williams of the Keith Williams Law Group in Lebanon and Nashville has practiced aviation law for more than 20 years and has represented a number of victims and/or their families in legal matters regarding plane crashes. He noted that in his practice, “I have seen firsthand the harms and losses of the families like those of the passengers aboard the lost Flight 370 as they agonize over not knowing the fate of their loved ones.”

He said he hopes the finding of debris floating in the southern portion of the Indian Ocean will lead to the location and recovery of loved ones and at the same also lead to an investigation into the cause of the plane crash.

Although this accident occurred in another part of the world – the flight took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia en route to Beijing, China. Most of the passengers onboard were from China, but others were from Malaysia and three were from the U.S. There were a total of 239 people on board the plane, including flight personnel.

Williams has experience in dealing with a lawsuit involving a foreign airline. He represented the daughter of an Iranian man who was killed in the Caspian Airlines Flight 7908 that occurred in July 2009. The daughter resided outside of San Francisco.

The differences between representing someone in an international air disaster versus one that occurs in the U.S. are dramatic, he said.

Those that occur in foreign lands, or waters, generally fall under the 1999 Montreal Convention, signed by more than 100 countries. Prior to that, such matters were handled through the Warsaw Convention which dated from the 1920s-1930s. Not as many countries were part of the Warsaw Convention. Williams noted that Iran, in the case of the Caspian Airlines crash, was not one of the countries that signed the Montreal Convention.

The Montreal Convention, he said, essentially provides the rights and remedies for family members who lost a loved one as a result of a plane crash.

Keith Williams and Jim Stocks discuss plane crash lawThe treaty, as it is also called, allows for “determination of the venue where a lawsuit may be brought against Malaysia Airlines and limits on the airline’s liability,” he said.

It also provides choices for venues for damage claims to be filed. The claims can be filed, he said, “where the airline has its principal place of business, where the ticket was bought, where the final destination was and where the passenger resided.”

Williams began practicing aviation law some years ago after representing a family in a medical malpractice case in Kentucky. The family had a friend who died in a plane crash, and they referred the case to him.

And, no, Williams is not a pilot, something he is often asked, he said.

What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 will take a long time to determine, but more often than not, he noted, such matters are “almost always a products liability case.” And if it is determined that something on the plane was defective in some way, then “there’s going to be a lot of lawsuits. Malaysia Airlines will point at Boeing, Boeing will point at Honeywell. It gets to be a big mess,” and more than one court will sort it out.

In the meantime, families have two years to file a lawsuit under the provisions of the Montreal Convention – that is, two years from the date of the crash.

Williams serves as vice chair of the Aviation Section of the American Association for Justice. Through that organization, he is also in regular contact with a number of aviation experts who have been appearing on national TV news shows discussing Flight 370.

There is much speculation about what happened, he said, ranging from something done intentionally to the loss of cabin pressure.

Regarding reports that one of the pilots had a flight simulator at his home, Williams said that was not unusual and was a way for pilots to keep up with changing technology.

“There are programs for lawyers to practice objections,” he added, so pilots practicing flying with the use of a simulator was not out of the question.

Among other cases Williams has been involved in, he represented a number of plaintiffs and was on the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in multi-party complex litigation concerning the crash of Comair Flight 5191 in Lexington, Ky., in August 2006. He represented passengers on an American Airlines flight that involved an in-flight engine fire and emergency landing, represents several passengers injured in the Southwest Airlines Flight 345 hard landing at LaGuardia Airport and represented the parents of a deceased helicopter pilot against the helicopter manufacturer, owner and fixed based operator following the crash of the helicopter.
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