Attorneys at The Axelrod Firm have extensive experience representing various interests in the aviation industry including domestic and foreign airlines in passenger, baggage, and cargo claims, aircraft and component part manufacturers in product liability and commercial litigation, airports, ground handling equipment manufacturers, airline caterers as well as companies, and employers in the aviation industry in AIR-21 actions. We have represented foreign airlines in major accident litigation, both in the U.S. and in other countries. We also counsel clients on commercial and business-related issues such as product liability and risk management. We have a wide range of contacts in the aviation industry, including in the aviation insurance market.
Ms. Savitt is one of the founders and a past President of the International Aviation Womens Association and is a former Director of Attorneys’ Division of the Aviation Insurance Association.
- Representing manufacturer of ground support equipment in litigation in Georgia for damage to jet aircraft. The action involves a determination of the cause of an electrical fire. The damages sought includes diminution of value and loss of use.
- Represented multinational manufacturer of polyimide film used as coating on wiring in two wrongful death and personal injury federal court actions arising out of accidents involving military helicopters; included complex factual issues including focus on electrical systems of helicopters and government contractor defense. Cases involved extensive discovery including discovery directed to the U.S. military. One case settled on favorable terms; client’s motion for summary judgment was granted in the other case.
- Defended French bearing manufacturer in wrongful death action in state court in Cook County, Illinois arising out of a helicopter crash. Challenged the jurisdiction of Illinois courts resulting in the dismissal of the lawsuit by the trial court. Maintained the challenge to the court’s jurisdiction after the plaintiff’s successful appeal through to Illinois Supreme Court to an unsuccessful petition for certiorari to the U. S. Supreme Court. Continued client’s defense against allegations including strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Retained multiple experts including a metallurgist, an accident reconstructionist, a pilot expert, an economist, a biomechanics forensic expert, and a maintenance expert. Following mediation, the case settled on favorable terms two weeks before trial.
- Represented a ground handling company in multiple wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits around the U.S. involving loaders and other vehicles.
- Assisted in the representation of a manufacturer of an autopilot arising out of the crash of an airplane in Newark, New Jersey resulting in four deaths, personal injuries, and property damage. After years of litigation, participated in a six-week trial against the manufacturer and United States government by the estates of the pilot, passengers, and owner of the business and property destroyed in the crash resulting in a complete defense verdict.
- Represented a component manufacturer acting as national coordinating counsel in multiple lawsuits around the U.S. arising out the Air France Flight 447 accident. The case resulted in multi-district litigation and was dismissed after a successful motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens.
- Counseled a French engine manufacturer and worked with Mexican counsel regarding a possible claim by a Mexican distributor of engines and victims of an airplane crash in Mexico.
- Defended a UK bearing manufacturer in a complex product liability action in Federal Court in Texas arising out of a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in three deaths. After several years of litigation including depositions in UK and France, represented the manufacturer in mediation resulting in the manufacturer paying only a nominal settlement.
- Successfully defended an aerospace component part manufacturer from post-trial claims in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and an appeal to the Third Circuit against claims that its seal was defectively designed and caused flammable fluid to reach the engine manifold of a military helicopter, leading to the deaths of all Marines onboard. After the jury had found for the defense, Plaintiffs filed post-trial motions claiming many errors and that a new trial was required. After multiple briefs before the district court and oral argument thereon, the court denied Plaintiffs post-trial motions. Plaintiff appealed and after multiple briefs before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Third Circuit affirmed.
- Represented Deutsche Aerospace in contract and negligence issues arising out of JPATS prototype aircraft during test flight in Germany.
- Represented an airline and wrote two briefs in federal court cases that were published in the Aviation Litigation Reporter, including a brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States in an action brought under the Warsaw Convention, “Brief of Northwest Airlines, Inc. in Opposition to the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari,” Grimes v. Northwest Airlines, Inc. Successfully defended the airline in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and in the Supreme Court of the United States, in litigation arising from a claim by a passenger aboard an international flight. The passenger alleged that his refusal to leave a seat to which he was not assigned, and his subsequent arrest and removal from the flight by airport police: (1) caused him to suffer an “accident which caused damage” within the meaning of Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention; and (2) was outside of the limitation of liability provision in Article 25 of the Warsaw Convention. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of the airline on the passenger’s claims. After briefing, the Third Circuit affirmed. After the Opposition to the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, the Supreme Court denied certiorari.
- Represented airlines in issues arising out of Air Carrier Access Act compliance, including wheelchair access, passenger assistance, and treatment of disabled passengers.
- Through an indemnity agreement between an airline and a company providing wheelchair services at a French airport, represented an airline in a claim by a disabled passenger for alleged failure to arrange for proper transfer of the passenger resulting in serious injuries. The case in Federal Court in New York involved complex legal issues including application of the Montreal Convention. The case settled on favorable terms.
- Represented U.S. and foreign air carriers in claims brought by passengers and third parties including allegations of food poisoning, injuries caused by luggage falling from overhead bins, injuries allegedly received during an emergency evacuation, injuries arising from turbulence during flight, injuries received after an emergency landing, wrongful detention claims arising from immigration irregularities, coffee spills, trip and falls on airplane, cargo claims, claims regarding carriage of animals, delayed flights and missing baggage claims. Matters included defenses under the Warsaw Convention and Montreal Convention, personal jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, various statutes including the Federation Aviation Act, and the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
- Represented airlines in major accident litigation, working with local counsel globally with respect to claims by families of passengers from many countries.
- Represented a component manufacturer acting as national coordinating counsel in multiple lawsuits around the U.S. arising out the Air France Flight 447 accident. The case resulted in multi-district litigation and was dismissed after we filed a successful motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens.
- Defended international airline catering company in employment litigation in the Eastern District of New York for claims of discrimination based upon age, race, and ethnic origin. Successfully defeated class action certification. After trial by four plaintiffs, received dismissal in two cases and nominal verdicts for the other two plaintiffs.
Commercial Litigation and Counseling
- Counseled major international aircraft component manufacturer in breach of contract claims and mitigation of damages in matter where alleged damages were $13 million.
- Acted as expert in international arbitration regarding breach of contract claim seeking to invalidate exculpatory clauses in international sales contract for major international company arising out of allegations of product defect.
- Acted for international aerospace company in contractual dispute arising out of damage to B737 aircraft engine; after filing Demand for Arbitration case settled on favorable terms.
- Represented airport authority Aéroports de Paris and its insurers in wrongful death and personal injury claims in the United States and overseas arising out of the collapse of a terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Claims included allegations of negligence related to construction and architectural defects. After several mediation sessions, a wrongful death case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York arising out of the accident which resulted in a favorable settlement.
- “Helicopter Crash Litigation,” AVICON Conference, Stevensville, Maryland | 2018
- “3D printing in Aviation: Perspectives on Insurance, Manufacturing and Product Liability with this Emerging Technology,” AVICON Conference, Stevensville, Maryland | 2017
- “Helicopter Crash Litigation,” 29th Annual Conference of the International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) in Berlin, Germany | November 2017
- “Trying the Aviation Case: Ethical and Practical Pitfalls from Experienced Aviation Counsel,” Aviation Insurance Association 2017 Conference, San Diego, California | 2017
- “The International Aviation Market: How to Counsel Your Clients on the Pitfalls and Litigation Risks of Doing Business in the BRIC Countries,” ACI 4th Annual Forum on Defending and Managing Aviation Litigation, Boston, Massachusetts | 2012
- The Axelrod Firm’s attorneys defend companies in employment matters including in AIR-21 actions. The Axelrod Firm Partners, Sheryl Axelrod and Lisa Savitt, published an article about this work in The American Bar Association, Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, Aviation and Space Law, Winter 2020 (published in the Spring of 2020), “Mayday, Mayday! Minimizing air carriers’ exposure by protecting their whistleblowers – lessons gleaned from AIR 21.” | Spring 2020
- Chapter on Personal Jurisdiction, “Litigating the Aviation Case,“ Fourth Edition | August 2017
- Brief Of Northwest Airlines, Inc. In Opposition To The Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari, Grimes v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., published, Aviation Litigation Reporter. In this action, the passenger onboard an international flight sued an airline company. He alleged that his refusal to leave a seat to which he was not assigned, and his subsequent arrest and removal from the flight by airport police: (1) caused him to suffer an “accident which caused damage” within the meaning of Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention; and (2) was outside of the limitation of liability provision in Article 25 of the Warsaw Convention. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of the airline on the passenger’s claims. After briefing, the Third Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Axelrod wrote the Opposition to the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which the Aviation Litigation Reporter published. After the opposition to a writ of certiorari was filed, the Supreme Court denied certiorari.
- Response Of Defendant Macrotech Fluid Sealing, Inc. To Plaintiffs’ Memorandum In Support Of Motion For New Trial, Stecyk v. Bell Helicopter, published, Aviation Litigation Reporter. This brief concerns litigation brought against an aerospace component part manufacturer by the estates of Marines who perished in the crash of a military helicopter. The estates of the Marines claimed that the component part manufacturer’s seal was defectively designed, caused flammable fluid to reach the engine manifold, and caused the fire that led to the crash. The case went to a trial which concluded with a defense verdict. Plaintiffs filed post-trial motions claiming many reversible errors occurred and that a new trial was required. Ms. Axelrod wrote the papers on behalf of the aerospace component part manufacturer opposing Plaintiffs’ post-trial motions before the district court. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ post-trial motions, and Plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ms. Axelrod wrote the brief on behalf of the manufacturer in the Third Circuit, and the Third Circuit affirmed the entry of judgment in the manufacturer’s favor. The Aviation Litigation Reporter published the brief Ms. Axelrod wrote in the Third Circuit.