A Delaware judge has tossed claims for negligence and fraud against the maker of an airplane that crashed at an airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012, killing five people on board.
Superior Court Judge Mary M. Johnson on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit from The Lima Delta Co., a Delaware-based firm that purchased the aircraft in May 2011, saying that the tort claims were barred under Delaware law. In its complaint, Lima Delta attributed the crash to faulty brakes and alleged that Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., the Savannah, Georgia-based aircraft-manufacturer, knew about the defect but failed to report it to federal aviation regulators.
But Johnson ruled that Lima Delta’s tort claims were blocked by the economic loss doctrine, which prohibits tort recovery for economic losses caused by defective products unless there is personal injury or damage to “other property.”
Lima Delta had argued that the economic loss doctrine did not apply to its case because the plane’s breaking system had caused the five deaths
“Those deaths are relevant,” Jennifer L. Dering, Lima Delta’s attorney wrote, painting the issue as a matter of first impression.
“Here where there clearly has been injury, even deaths which were fully avoidable if only defendants had been forthcoming about the dangers with the brake by wire system, the doctrine simply does not apply.”
Johnson, however, nixed the argument, saying Lima had not requested recovery for personal injuries in its suit or cited any damages other than those to Gulfstream’s aircraft.
“The court finds that the economic loss doctrine bars plaintiffs’ tort claims,” she wrote in a 12-page opinion. “Damages resulting from personal injury or property damage to non-parties do not exempt application of the doctrine.”
Johnson on Wednesday also cast aside claims that Gulfstream had purposely withheld information regarding the plane’s breaking system. While Lima Delta had provided a list of break failures, the company did not show that they were related to any particular design defect.
“The court finds that such alleged evidence might be sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for negligence or product liability claims, However, a greater degree of specificity is required for pleading fraudulent concealment, failure to disclose, or misrepresentation,” Johnson said.
Attorneys from both sides were not immediately available to comment.
The case was not the first to stem from the deadly crash involving Gulfstream’s G-IV is a twin-engine, large-cabin business jet. In 2016, Superior Court President Judge Jan R. Jurden dismissed Lima Delta’s suit against five insurers in favor of a first-filed action in Georgia. That decision was later upheld by the Delaware Supreme Court on appeal.
Lima Delta was represented in the case by Dering, Joseph A. Martin and Jeffrey Lubin of Martin Law Firm.
Gulfstream was represented by Gary L. Halbert of Holland & Knight and Brett D. Fallon of Morris James.
The case was captioned Lima Delta v. Gulfstream.