Gol accident: USA courts demand cooperation by Legacy pilots
Published on 26/04/2008 at 00:28
Marília Martins, correspondent - O Globo; GlobonewsTV
RIO and NEW YORK - Judge Brian Hogan, of the American Federal Court for the state of New York, decided this Friday to demand from pilots Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, and from American firms ExcelAire, owner of the Legacy jet, and Honeywell, manufacturer of the transponder installed on the Legacy that collided with the Gol plane killing 154 people, in September of 2006, the pledge that they will collaborate with the Brazilian courts and accept any Brazilian court verdict. The agreement should be in the form of two pledge-letters to be presented to the American federal court. The decision on whether a civil action for indemnity will continue in the USA will be given in a short time frame, not stipulated.
The civil indemnity suit in the American court brings together 130 families, and the lawyers for the accusation, which ask for the lawsuit to continue in the USA, argue that the parts are in the USA, and there there is public interest in reaching a judgment on the case on American soil:
The lawyers for the pilots and for the companies guarantee that their clients will respect the Brazilian court decision and that the families will be fully indemnified, if they bring suit in Brazilian courts.
"What was important was the demand for a pledge by the pilots and by ExcelAire to collaborate", said Lexi Hazan, lawyer for the victims' families.
The Federal Court of New York asked for more documents to decide if the Gol disaster can be judged in the United States. The families believe that this form of judgment will be quicker and yield larger indemnities.
This Friday, in one more audience on the case, the judge heard the arguments of the lawyers for the companies and for the victims' families.
Legacy jet pilots deny having turned off the transponder
At the beginning of February, the American pilots of the Legacy jet were heard in the United States. The testimony was given to officials of Cenipa, the Center for the Investigation and Prevention of Aviation Accidents of the Air Force Ministry (sic).
There were three days of testimony in Washington. Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino heard the transcription of the Legacy's black box. They said that they did not turn off the transponder, the anti-collision equipment that did not function at the time of the accident.
The pilots could clarify once more that on their part there was no sort of conduct that was blameworthy or negligent.
In June, the courts accepted an indictment from the Prosecutors' Office against the two pilots, for negligent manslaughter.
In a note, the Air Force confirmed the testimony, which clarified fundamental points and will contribute to explaining why the transponder did not function at the time of the accident.
An important part of the puzzle is still missing: the testimony of the controllers, who, according to the Air Force, have refused to cooperate.
The report, which is in final stages of preparation, will recomment more rigor in the pre-requisities demanded of business aviation.
The Brazilian Association of Air Traffic Controllers declared that the controllers will testify at the appropriate moment, following their lawyers' advice.
Judge questions families' lawsuit in USA over Gol flight
Judge Brian M. Cogan, of the Federal Court of New York, this Friday raised questions about the continuance in the United States of the lawsuit brought against American firms by families of the Gol Flight 1907 accident victims.
In a two-hour hearing, the judge heard final arguments to decide if the families' suit against American firms can continue in the United States and asked a number of questions about the Brazilian court system.
Cogan asked lawyers for the families and the companies about the Brazilian civil code and if the victims' relatives could be fully compensated in they were to win a suit against Gol.
The judge also asked that the American firm ExcelAire (owner of the Legacy jet which collided with the Gol Boeing 737) and the two pilots of the jet, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, write letters promising to not contest the jurisprudence of the Brazilian courts and to cooperate beyond what is demanded by Brazilian law - which would include recording the pilots' testimony on video.
The judge's decision should be issued in the coming weeks. The lawyers for the families should present more documents by Tuesday, and the lawyers for the companies can submit answers by Friday.
Gol Flight 1907 fell in a forested area in the state of Mato Grosso on September 29, 2006, after colliding in midair with the ExcelAire Legacy.
The Boeing 737 was going from Manaus to Brasilia. All 154 people aboard died in the accident, which set off a crisis in the Brazilian aviation sector.
The Legacy, piloted by Americans Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, managed to land with only some damage to the aircraft's wing.
The lawsuit in the United States was brought by relatives of victims against American firms involved in the case, among them ExcelAire and Honeywell - manufacturer of the jet's transponder, a radio transmitter-receiver which sends and receives signals, including the type of aircraft and its altitude, to other aircraft and to control towers.
In the courthouse hallways, lawyers for the families remembered that the question of "inconvenient forum" has still not been judged and that the judge's true intentions will only be known when the decision is published.
"We argue that the families will probably not be fully compensated in Brazil and that the essence of this case is here in the USA", said Lexi Hazam, who represents 56 families.
"The fact (of the judge) having dedicated two hours shows that he is interested in the case", said Leonardo Amarante, who works in partnership with Hazam.
Hazam said that the American pilots continue to hold their licences and can pilot in the USA and in other countries and that the Honeywell transponder continues to be sold.
"Only an American judge can impede this", said Hazam. "The question is, yes, one of American public interest."
Honeywell's lawyers, Don G. Rushing and Charles L. Kerr, argued that the case should be judged in Brazil because the accident occurred in Brazilian territory, the investigation is being conducted by the Brazilian government, and the majority of the victims are Brazilian.
They said further that it would be an act of "American centricity" to think that the American court system is better than Brazil's. And that the Brazilian courts have much better conditions for deciding the case.
Source: BBC Brazil