$18.4 Million Settlement in Nebraska Helicopter Crash Lawsuits

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2002 Crash Killed All Three Occupants; First Trial Was to Begin February 19

A significant portion of the settlement is to be paid by Eurocopter France with substantial payments also by the five other defendants

The parties in a complex helicopter crash lawsuit that was scheduled to go to trial in Lancaster County District Court last month have now finalized a $18.4 million settlement for all three cases. Final dismissals were filed today. (Manske et. al vs. Eurocopter, et. al,CI102-2620-21-22, District Court of Lancaster County, Nebraska).

According to personal injury attorney Gary C. Robb, the Kansas City attorney who represented all of the families, "The pilot had radio'd in that he was having a binding problem with the right pedal which controls the pitch of the tail rotor. Shortly after that, witnesses observed the helicopter spinning out of control and that is the classic signature of a failed tail rotor."

"A significant portion of the settlement is to be paid by Eurocopter France with substantial payments also by the five other defendants," said Robb.

At the time of the settlement the helicopter manufacturer, Eurocopter France announced a prompt change in the maintenance manual providing for more frequent inspections of the tail rotor component. Eurocopter also declared its intent to re-design the tail rotor system within the next year so as to completely eliminate the accumulator assembly and this change will be made available to all such helicopter models in the field.

"The families commend Eurocopter for making the design improvements. It is great comfort to them that no one else will be injured as a result of this part," said Robb.

"These are by far the largest wrongful death settlements in the history of the State of Nebraska," said Vincent Powers, a Lincoln lawyer who worked with Robb on the cases. "These were three wonderful people who dedicated themselves to helping others," said Powers.

The lawsuits were filed as a result of the June 21, 2002 crash of a LifeNet helicopter in Norfolk. Killed were the pilot, Phillip Herring, the flight nurse, Lori Schrempp, and the flight paramedic, Patrick Scollard. The families claimed that the crash was due to a tail rotor component called an accumulator which failed suddenly in-flight.

The families claimed that the helicopter crashed because a rubber bladder inside a key component developed a hole through which hydraulic fluid could pass. According to the plaintiffs' case, this escaping nitrogen gas was felt by the pilot at the controls. When following the Eurocopter procedures for dealing with such a problem, the pilot de-activated all hydraulics for the aircraft and the tail rotor became uncontrollable.

According to Gary C. Robb lead attorneys for the Plaintiffs, the tail rotor of a helicopter counteracts the force generated by the main rotor to maintain directional stability of a helicopter. "Without a properly functioning tail rotor, a pilot will be unable to keep the helicopter from spinning in a direction opposite to the movement of the main rotor rotation." According to the investigation of the National Transportation Safety Board, numerous witnesses observed the helicopter spinning before it crashed.

One aspect of the case Robb referred to as "unique and important" was that the occupants knew that they would be in a helicopter crash for at least 30 to 45 seconds. "Under Nebraska law, the pre-impact terror or conscious apprehension of death experienced by individuals in these situations is an element of damages. We had an experienced Air Force physician who has studied such circumstances and was prepared to testify at trial as to the psychological implications of such a predicament."

The settlement will be divided among the three families and also includes compensation for the lost earnings, loss of love, affection and companionship, and the deceased's loss of enjoyment of life.

In addition to this record-breaking helicopter settlement, Gary Robb has the two highest helicopter crash jury verdicts in U.S. history, a $350 million verdict in a 1995 helicopter crash killing a pilot and a $70 million jury verdict in a companion case resulting in the death of the passenger. The helicopter crash attorney also attained the largest pre-trial settlement in a helicopter crash in U.S. history: a $38 million settlement for a woman horribly injured in a helicopter crash in the Grand Canyon.

"A helicopter is an entirely different aircraft from a fixed-wing plane and they don't glide," Robb said. "This is why most helicopter crashes tend to be fatal and it is remarkable that Pat Scollard survived the initial impact although he died some time later."

For further information please contact:

Plaintiffs' Lawyers: Gary C. Robb of ROBB & ROBB LLC in Kansas City, Missouri (816) 474-8080.

Defendants' Lawyers: Michael G. Mullin of KUTAK ROCK LLP in Omaha, Nebraska (402) 346-6000.

About Robb & Robb LLC: The Kansas City personal injury law firm of Robb & Robb LLC was founded in 1984 by Gary C. Robb and Anita Porte Robb. Over the past 24 years the firm has obtained over $750 million in verdicts and recoveries on behalf of victims of personal injury and wrongful death. The firm has handled many precedent-setting, important, high-profile and complex personal injury and wrongful death cases in Missouri and nationwide, including catastrophic truck, bus, and automobile accidents.

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