CLIFFORD LAW OFFICES
In re Air Crash Disaster near Roselawn, Indiana
on October 31, 1994
Clockwise from lower left: Robert A. Clifford, Thomas A. Demetrio (in an advisory role) and Kevin P. Durkin were lead plaintiffs’ counsel; Michael P. Connelly
represented European aircraft manufacturer ATR; and Sidney Schenkier and Anton R. Valukas represented American Airlines in litigation over the 1994
crash of American Eagle Flight 4184 in Roselawn, Ind.
JANUARY # 1998
Making a $110-million crash settlement fly
by Abdon M. Pallasch Michael P. Connelly of Connelly & profits over safety, he would click on a video
Schroeder represented Avions de Transport of American CEO Robert Crandall. Asked
On Halloween in 1994, 30-mile-an-hour Regional (ATR), the plane’s European manu- what he did to test ATR planes for icing
winds whipped rain horizontally into facturer. The manufacturer’s European problems, Crandall would tell jurors via
people’s faces. Umbrellas blew inside out. ownership triggered the Foreign Sovereign video, “Well, I suspect nothing. We rely on
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers Immunity Act, which brought the case to the agency of oversight … the Federal
struggled to play football at Soldier Field. federal court. Aviation Administration.”
Nine-thousand feet above northwest In their opening arguments, Clifford and The plaintiffs’ attorneys had videotaped
Indiana, American Eagle Flight 4184 from Connelly would have blamed American for biographies of the victims. All three
Indianapolis circled, waiting to land at the crash. The 29-year-old pilot was out of sides created animated videos of the
O’Hare International Airport. The winds the cockpit on a five-minute bathroom break, crash, synchronized with the tape of the
were lighter up there, but twice the co-pilot socializing with the flight attendants while voice recorder.
warned the pilot that freezing drizzle was the 30-year-old co-pilot tried to warn him “When I saw Bob Clifford’s video, I
coating the wings with ice. about the ice build-up, they would argue. laughed because it was exactly the same as
“Aw, [expletive],” the co-pilot said, the last “Gettin’ busy with the ladies back here… ours,” Valukas said. “With the meteorolo-
sound on the cockpit voice recorder before a so if I don’t make it up there within the next, gists, there was not a scintilla of information
“loud crunching sound.” All 68 passengers say, 15-20 minutes, you know why,” the different. They were all identical. I could
and crew died when the plane slammed into have examined my experts off their charts.”
a Roselawn, Ind., cornfield at 450 miles an Judges Aspen and Castillo credited the
hour. The impact was so fierce the coroner Robert A. Clifford of the attorneys with running a textbook case in terms
found no more than a pound of remains for Clifford Law Offices was lead of civility and trial preparation. The attorneys,
any one victim. plaintiff’s counsel representing in turn, praised Aspen, Castillo and opposing
Three years later a jury had been chosen counsel for their professionalism. Clifford’s
and opening arguments were set to begin in
15 of the 28 families. and Valukas’ behind-the-scenes workhorse
U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo's partners—Kevin P. Durkin and Sidney I.
courtroom in Chicago. The case was In re Air recorder captured the pilot telling the co-pilot Schenkier, respectively—earned kudos.
Crash Disaster Near Roselawn, Ind., on Oct. over the intercom. American Eagle paid the All three sides admired Castillo’s holding
31, 1994, 95 C 4593. pilot $55,000 a year, the co-pilot $23,000 — to his early admonition that the case be tried
But at the last minute, Chief Judge Marvin same as a flight attendant, Clifford would or settled before the third anniversary of the
E. Aspen shuttled between rooms at the North have pointed out. crash. The settlement brought in $1 million in
Shore Doubletree Hotel in Skokie to broker a Then Clifford would join Valukas in arguing fees for Connelly’s firm; $10 million to $16
$110-million settlement, averting a trial. that the manufacturer was at fault. The million for Clifford’s firm; and an unknown
What a fascinating trial it would have been. “boot” on the wing that’s supposed to prevent sum for Valukas’ firm. He wouldn’t say.
The attorneys were tops in their fields. For ice build-up was inadequate, the National Within two weeks of the crash—Nov. 13—
three years they had researched and prepared, Transportation Safety Board ruled. The the first case was filed in Cook County Circuit
assembling the latest technology and running Federal Aviation Administration failed to Court by Donald J. Nolan of The Law Offices
their strategies past focus groups. raise red flags before certifying the plane was of Donald J. Nolan, who ultimately filed three
Robert A. Clifford of the Clifford Law safe, Valukas would stress. cases. More cases starting coming in, most of
Offices was lead plaintiff’s counsel, repre- “Clifford had the best situation in the them in Cook County. In all, 16 law firms
senting 15 of the 28 families whose suits world,” Connelly said. “He had Valukas on from seven states and Washington D.C.,
remained at the time of trial. his side to find out anything about the plane. would file suits in numerous jurisdictions.
Anton R. Valukas of Jenner & Block He had me on his side to find out anything “Within a couple of weeks we got calls,”
represented AMR Corp. — parent of about American.” Durkin said. At the time, Clifford and
American Airlines; AMR Leasing Corp.; All the bells and whistles were ready to go. Durkin were part of Corboy Demetrio
and AMR Eagle Inc., which owns Simmons “We wanted to make this a [technology] Clifford, a merger of powerhouse personal
Airlines, operator of American Eagle. showcase—the plaintiffs were entitled to injury firms that started nine months before
American Eagle operates smaller, regional that,” Clifford said. the crash but split three months later.
aircraft connecting with American’s Depositions were videotaped. When The crash preceded Congress’ 1996 thirty-
main routes. Clifford would argue that American put day “cooling off” period enacted to shield
families of disaster victims from attorney no such risk in this case. There is nothing to
solicitations. be gained by a precipitous lawsuit.”
“I believe some firms in Chicago mailed to Clifford and Durkin beg to differ.
people; but we, never, ever called anyone to “The ultimate result was triple the final
represent them,” Durkin said, adding that at offer made in 1996,” Durkin said. Individual
least four clients hired them because “you settlements are confidential, but Clifford’s
didn’t send stuff to us.” 15 cases settled on the eve of trial brought in
$64 million, an average of $4.3 million each.
Scavenging for experts The total of Nolan’s three cases brought in “a
little over $12 million,” he said.
The attorneys twice traveled to France The letter said American did not believe
together to depose ATR officials, They went the airline “or its crew were in any way
to England and Sweden to interview victim’s responsible for this accident.”
families. They tripped over each other trying About 35 of the 68 estates would settle at
to retain the country’s top experts before the some point over the three years before the
other sides could. $110-million settlement in September 1997.
Each wanted to snare leading voices in
meteorology, ice on planes, and “super-cool Waiting for the NTSB
drizzle drops”—the weather phenomenon at
the heart of this case. As with any crash case, proceedings are
One drizzle-drop expert courted by two put somewhat on hold while the National
sides was dropped by both when they found Transportation Safety Board investigates the
him too rambling, they said. Each side cause of the crash.
predictably claimed it won the sweepstakes “We were stalled for a long period of time
for best experts. with the NTSB—from Dec. 1  to July
“We had two experts signed up within four 1996,” Durkin said.
days,” Connelly said. “Clifford’s experts all The airline and the manufacturer participate
took courses from our experts.” in NTSB investigations. The plaintiffs’
That drew a hearty laugh from Durkin, attorneys complain that gives those sides
who explained how one of his experts might an advantage.
have “learned” from one of Connelly’s. Robert A. Clifford “The people who have caused the harm
Durkin hired Porter Perkins, 70, a former know very much, and the families know very
NASA consultant, who had been testing would be speaking. Durkin joined the little and find out later,” Clifford says.
airplanes for icing effects since World War II. American Institute of Aeronautics and Valukas says the NTSB investigation is
“And part of their argument was going to Astronautics and sat in on all three days of an above-board, professional process in
be this aircraft-icing was an entirely new seminar, joining Perkins to listen to Sand. which those who can help solve the puzzle of
phenomenon,” Durkin said. “[Sand] is probably the foremost aviation the crash’s cause naturally are called on
Perkins agreed to testify for the plaintiffs icing expert in the country,” Connelly said. to participate.
after declining an offer from ATR. Durkin and Connelly debate which of these “The NTSB appeared to be dedicated to
two aviation icing experts could teach the actually seeking the truth,” Valukas said.
“The people who have caused other something he didn't already know, but “All parties were compelled to disclose every-
the harm know very much, and Durkin concluded by saying, “I was learning thing. It was a refreshing experience. Lawyers
areas to cross-examine him on; and he was were not interested in tailoring evidence. It
the families know very little and was a very truth-oriented process.”
going to say the pilots were at fault, so…”
find out later," Clifford says. So…Durkin decided he’d be happy to let Not all the process was closed: The board
Sand testify unchallenged. held a public hearing in Indianapolis the
“Within a few days, shortly after the acci- “It would have been a battle of experts,” week of Feb. 27, 1995.
dent, they called and wanted to retain me Valukas said, adding, “At least one of the Meanwhile, the plaintiffs’ attorneys on their
right away,” Perkins said. “I told them I experts the plaintiffs very much wanted to own researched past airplane-icing incidents.
wasn’t interested.” use was one we were using.” The NTSB would find 13 incidents in
ATR sent Perkins a FedEx letter the next which icing caused problems for the ATR 42,
day, which he returned unopened, he said. Early settlers predecessor to the ATR 72 model that
Even if they never intended to use Perkins as crashed in Roselawn.
a witness, all sides try to keep the top experts On Dec. 5, Robert L. Alpert, a New York- The one that most interested the plaintiffs’
unavailable to the other sides. based attorney for American’s insurer, wrote attorneys was a 1987 crash near Como, Italy,
“It’s very common to try to tie up experts to family members of the victims to express that killed all 37 passengers and crew.
like that,” Durkin said. “sincere condolences,” offer reimbursement Connelly argued the 72 model was
Perkins is known among his peers as “one for any funeral or travel expenses, and even substantially different from the 42, saying
of the fathers of aircraft icing science,” to advance funds for other expenses. the 72s reported no icing incidents since their
Durkin said. “You may find yourself under pressure to debut six years ago.
Perkins told Durkin that Connelly’s expert sign a contingent fee retainer with an attorney But Castillo ultimately would rule that
meteorologist, Wayne Sand, was scheduled whereby his fee is a percentage of the final seven icing incidents involving the 42 were
to give a seminar on aircraft icing conditions— award,” Alpert wrote. “The rationale for such admissible—including Como.
including the Roselawn crash—in Reno, a percentage fee is that the lawyer risks ATR's United States counsel, Stephen C.
Nev., at the same conference where Perkins getting no fee if there is no recovery. There is Johnson of Lillick & Charles in San
Francisco, initially hired Michael Merlo of lot of corporate people who passed away. puts a human element into the process. But
the Chicago firm of Merlo, Kanlfsky, The first year was spent heavily on that human element also comes through
Brinkmeier & Douglas Ltd. to represent ATR damages discovery.” when we are taking the depositions.”
in this trial. Merlo bowed out soon thereafter, Lawyers went off to Scotland and to “The plaintiffs did a very effective job in
due to a conflict: His firm previously has rep- Manchester, England. Durkin went to Sweden. letting us know as much as they could about
resented American. Connelly took over in “One family [of two victims] lived way up the victims in this case and their families,”
early 1995. near the Arctic Circle in Sweden,” Durkin Valukas grants.
said. The victims, an elderly couple, had been Defense counsel scheduled depositions to
Clifford assumes the lead visiting a daughter in Indianapolis. coincide with a memorial service in Indiana
Durkin brought his Swedish-American for the victims; American flew relatives to
While Valukas and ATR’s attorneys partic- wife and their daughter; and they were warmly the service, Sundvall said.
ipated in the NTSB investigation, the plain- received by the victims’ family, most of The lack of identifiable remains meant
tiffs’ attorneys began dividing the labor. whom spoke excellent English. families could not have a standard burial near
“We broke it down an distributed responsi- “They were extremely educated people,” their homes.
bility among the plaintiffs’ team,” said James Durkin said. “Even the youngsters in grade
T. Crouse of Speiser, Krause, Madole & Lear school had learned English.” Venue wars
in Rosslyn, Va. “Kevin Durkin and Bob
Clifford were certainly the lead.” Show, don't tell One of the first big fights was over where
“We took the lead by the agreement of to hold the trial. Most of the suits were filed
everyone,’ Clifford said. “We made the In many cases, after Durkin or one of the in Cook County Circuit Court Law Division.
assumption that at the end of the day, we’d be other attorneys visited and interviewed fami- Others were filed in state courts in Texas,
the only ones left standing. We didn’t have to lies, the firm would send professionals to New York and Florida.
rely on any other plaintiffs’ attorneys. There videotape a segment about the victim. In addition to American and ATR, many of
was a lot of coattail riding in this case, and In a personal injury case, Clifford finds the suits named as a defendant Honeywell,
that’s not a bad thing.” it useful to show jurors a “day-in-the-life” Inc., which designed the automatic pilot sys-
“We were the document depository; we video of the plaintiff living with the tem that disengaged shortly before the crash.
were the central station,” Durkin said. He disability the defendant caused him or her. This year Richard C. Palmer of Wildman,
rented an extra office a floor above him. “But in a death case, how do you do it?” Harrold, Allen & Dixon successfully
There, paralegal Jennifer Gordon maintained removed Honeywell from the case after
spare copies of every document. it became clear the autopilot functioned
In February 1995, Clifford’s firm split off
“We took the lead by the agree- appropriately.
from Corboy & Demetrio. Phillip H. Corboy ment of everyone,” Clifford said. ATR is a joint venture between France’s
and Thomas A. Demetrio agreed to let “We made the assumption that Aerospatiale and Italy’s Allennia and is
Clifford take primary responsibility for this at the end of the day, we’d be more than 51 percent owned by those two
case; Corboy and Demetrio took primary respective governments. ATR invoked the
responsibility for air crashes in Pittsburgh and the only ones left standing.” Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act by filing
North Carolina. All three have worked on all for removal to the federal courts governing
the cases. Both sides assumed consulting roles Clifford asked rhetorically. The professional- each of the jurisdictions in which it had
in the others’ cases. quality videos featured interviews with been sued.
spouses, children, parents and friends of the That would ensure a federal bench trial
Globe-trotting loved one. High school teachers talked about instead of a state jury trial in which jurors
what good students they were; bosses talked might be swayed by nationalism.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys could not yet about their budding careers. All videos The cases were forwarded to the
depose American or ATR officials, but their climaxed in tearful accounts of hearing about Multi-District Litigation panel based in
clients could talk about their loved ones. the crash, hoping the loved one wasn’t on Washington. The panel had to decide whether
Among the passengers on the plane were the plane. to assign the cases to a federal judge in
citizens of Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Every video was a tear-jerker. Chicago, as most of the plaintiff’s attorneys
Colombia, South Africa and South Korea. “It helped us organize our thoughts” about sought, or to a federal judge in Hammond,
Passengers also included American citi- what to present at the damages phase of the Ind., as the defense sought logical place
zens who were General Motors employees on trial, Clifford said. because that’s where the plane crashed,”
their way to O’Hare to catch flights to The videos were shown to focus groups, Connelly said. “And it had some more conser-
Germany. On the back of every international which gave the attorneys feedback about vative law in terms of availability of damages.”
airline ticket it fine print: The Warsaw what might interest jurors. Federal courts use state laws in some
Convention limits to $75,000 the damages “I want to show this guy was going to be aspects of determining damages.
available for an international crash, including the chairman of GM, and sometimes they And while the plaintiffs argued that
domestic connecting flights. want to hear more about the quality of the Chicago made more sense because it was
“At least 10 passengers were in that cate- [spousal] relationship,” Clifford says. more easily accessible to the plaintiffs and
gory,” Durkin says. Clifford sends copies of tapes to opposing others who would be coming to testify,
The limit applies “unless the airline is counsel, showing them what will be presented Illinois’ more liberal damage laws were
guilty of ‘willful misconduct,’” Durkin said. at trial, and invites them to send copies to appealing, too.
He felt “up to the task” of proving that. the insurers. In wrongful death cases, Indiana allows no
Some plaintiffs’ attorneys worked on “We certainly watch them all,” said Sheila pre-impact terror damages; no damages
liability, others on damages. A Sundvall of Sidley & Austin, who coordi- for siblings or parents of adult unmarried
“We started meeting with all the families, nated defense on damage issues. “We have victims. Illinois allows all that.
getting economists,” Durkin said. “We had a people from offices review them. It certainly The MDL panel assigned the case to
Illinois, but Castillo ruled that the damage “had fought to get on the plane to get home an end-point. I tried to put myself in the
laws of the state each individual victim was to take his children trick-or-treating.” shoes of somebody who lost somebody in the
from would govern the compensatory award Harte was satisfied with the process. crash. I didn’t want the relatives to suffer any
for that victim’s estate. “That’s a redundancy [to say] Bob Alpert longer than necessary.”
Neither Indiana nor Illinois allows puni- takes a hard line,” Harte said. “That’s his
tive damages in wrongful death cases. job. He does it well. I know the widow and In the air
However, Texas does; and American Airlines children in our case were treated fairly.”
is based in Dallas. Castillo ruled for the Solo practitioner Martin E. Klein reacts to As part of the NTSB investigation,
plaintiffs in allowing Texas law to govern Harte’s comment with sarcasm. American Eagle and ATR were re-enacting
punitive damages in all the cases. “Great—he’s doing his job for his client,” the conditions of the crash over Edwards Air
The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act Klein said. “But for poor Nick Bua—who Force Base in California.
allowed ATR to have Castillo, rather than a comes for not a small price, I’m sure—the An ATR test pilot flew an ATR 72 high
jury, assess ATR’s liability. The same proviso settlement conference was of questionable above the desert, following another plane
did not apply to American, a U.S. company. value as far as trying to have an early spraying drizzle drops similar to those
Castillo ruled he would seat a jury who resolution of claims. present above Roselawn, Valukas said.
would hear the case against both defendants “We didn’t feel that the representatives of “They sprayed the plane with some of the
but use the jury’s finding on ATR’s liability the defendants were making it worthwhile to same conditions over Roselawn, and the
merely as an advisory opinion. participate in those discussions. We went in anomaly occurred,” Valukas said.
Following the liability trial, the same there hoping for serious negotiations right off “It was the first time anyone had ever seen
jury would hear a damages trial on four the phenomenon,” Connelly said.
“exemplar” plaintiffs with different Each attorney interpreted the test results as
economic circumstances. The verdicts would Bua said, “I told him from the a victory for his client. The wings iced up;
be used as benchmarks for settling the beginning, ‘You don’t tell Bob but the experienced test pilot was able to
remaining cases. Clifford, “Your case is worth compensate, Connelly said.
The test showed the “boot” designed to
this much and I won’t budge
Hardball prevent ice build-up on the wing was clearly
more than 5 or 10 percent.” inadequate, Valukas said.
In late 1995 Castillo appointed former fed- He will beat your brains out.’ They’re both right, the plaintiffs’ attor-
eral judge Nicholas J. Bua, now at Burke, And he did.” neys said.
Weaver & Prell, as a special master in an As a result of the investigation, ATR has
effort to settle cases. changed the design of the wing to include a
“He has got to be known as the best person the bat. It was five or six months.” bigger boot, which should prevent future
in the city at settling cases,” Castillo said. Klein started negotiations in January 1996. accidents. And American Eagle has expanded
Bua secured about 20 settlements, including He settled in August after Alpert “substan- its training manual with a broader discussion
one big one for $15 million, he says. tially” raised the offer, he said. of flying in icing conditions.
“That’s nowhere near half the cases,” Bua At one point, Bua told Alpert he was going “There really is a lot that came out of the
said. “Usually we’re able to do better to quit because the low-ball offers were crash,” Connelly said.
than that.” wasting everyone’s time. Crouse, the D.C. plaintiff’s attorney,
Bua blames Alpert, who represented “If I had the sum that Tony Valukas had disagrees, saying the Federal Aviation
American’s insurer and wrote the letter to when he settled, we’d have settled much Administration still only enforces minimum
victims’ families, for the lack of settlements. earlier,” Bua said. “I have a tremendous safety standards.
Alpert is president of the International amount of respect for Tony Valukas. Had he “The saddest thing about the Roselawn
Claims and Litigation Management Group, been in the case from the beginning, it would crash and the ensuing litigation is it showed
Inc., Garden City, N.Y. and Chapel Hill, N.C. have settled much earlier.” how deficient the system is in designing
He did not return repeated telephone calls. The tone set in the settlement conferences aircraft, getting them certified and getting
“At that time, Bob Alpert took a really made even less likely the chance that them operating,” Crouse said. “Everyone
hard line.” Bua said. “I told him from the American and ATR might present a united should learn a big lesson from Roselawn. The
beginning, ‘You don’t tell Bob Clifford, front against the plaintiffs, Connelly said. tragedy is, I don’t know if they have.”
“Your case is worth this much and I won’t “In the settlement negotiations, the cases
budge more than 5 or 10 percent.” He will had been clouded up with a certain adversarial The aileron
beat your brains out.’ And he did.” relationship. In the beginning of the case, an
Alpert’s hardball approach alienated individual—not Tony—set the strategy. The The focus of the Roselawn crash was a part
Clifford and Durkin. plaintiffs might have seen a different defense of the wing called the aileron (AY´-leh-ron),
“Bob Alpert came to our clients and did his of the case with Tony and I working together. which moves the plane up and down.
best to have them not retain counsel and At the end of the case, Tony was able to take When the wing iced up and the autopilot
did everything he could to keep this from control of the case. I wish to God we had disengaged, the aileron made “a sudden and
reaching an amicable resolution,” Durkin been able to work together.” unexpected hinge moment reversal” that sent
said. “He said, ‘Here’s our offer, and we will With settlement talks less fruitful than he’d the plane into a roll from which it never
not pay you a penny more. Maybe, if you can like, Castillo emphasized his bottom line: Be recovered, the NTSB concluded.
convince me, it’ll be 10 percent more.’” ready for trial by September 1997. Merlo—and then Connelly—could tell
Plaintiff’s attorney William J. Harte of “Setting a firm trial date is the tried-and- from early on that the NTSB investigation
William J. Harte Ltd. obtained one of the true method,” Castillo said. “[September ’97] was not going their way. In the end, the
larger settlements stemming from Bua’s was a line in the sand I drew as a challenge to report would largely exonerate the crew and
conferences. The amount is private. Harte’s myself. Every time I got to an anniversary of blame ATR and, surprisingly, the FAA,
client, a partner at Andersen Consulting LLP, the crash, I kept thinking: We need to get to for not catching the plane’s inability to
handle ice. Some of those witnesses were in Europe. were staying on the square. We got no sleep.
“We got caught in a turf war between the And Clifford doesn’t like to use fair-haired In Toulouse, those were 12-to-15-hour days.
NTSB and the FAA,” Connelly said. “They actors to read a transcript of a deposition. We weren’t goofing off.”
totally ignored crew conduct that was “Sometimes you want to show the person Meanwhile, each of the three sides
inappropriate. You could see that by the way giving the company [line] is a nasty creep,” composed their animated versions of
they excerpted the flight record. If you could Clifford says. the crash. Valukas hired Forensic
have heard the whole transcript, you would Crandall gave Durkin many of the answers Technologies, Intl.; Connelly hired
have seen the attention of the crew was not he and Clifford were looking for. Engineering Animation Inc.; and Clifford
on flying the aircraft. For the NTSB to have “Ultimately, I am responsible for anything hired Z-Axis. JuriLink composed Clifford’s
ignored that put us in a hole going into that happens at AMR,” Crandall said. videos of victims’ families.
the trial.” “What was done by AMR, American
Connelly and the plaintiffs’ attorneys had Airlines, or Simmons to investigate the The eve of trial
to battle to get the entire cockpit voice problems of ATR 42 or 72 operating in icing
recorder transcript admitted in evidence. conditions?” Durkin asked Crandall. By this past summer, no global settlement
All the attorneys say they are bound by “Well, I suspect, nothing,” Crandall was in sight; and it became clear Castillo
court order not to release the unedited answered. “We rely on the agency of over- wasn’t budging on the trial date.
version of the transcript, which apparently sight…the Federal Aviation Administration.” “It’s an amazing thing to me Castillo held
has quotes even more explicit than “Gettin’ Durkin planned to admit into evidence a us to that schedule,” Connelly said. “Castillo
busy with the ladies back here…” amid rap statement from the FAA that their standards did a great job. He defused a few really ugly
music audible in the cockpit. were “Minimum safety standards.” situations. Nobody ever got sanctioned. He
After reading a draft of the NTSB’s final Valukas watched the deposition and felt was able to put people back on track, make
report, the Bureau Enquetes-Accidents Crandall acquitted himself well. Valukas’ them act like adults.”
(BEA) of the French government wrote to the message to the jury would have been: Valukas credits Castillo with ruling quickly
NTSB with a dissenting report, blasting the “The individual executives at Simmons on motions.
NTSB report as “one-sided” and arguing the and Eagle, who reviewed all prior icing “He wanted to make sure we were working
crew deserves more blame. incidents, were themselves pilots who were on this full-time,” Clifford said.
The NTSB report was released July 9, flying that aircraft and were responsible for And they were.
1996, nearly two years after the crash. As overseeing pilots flying those aircraft; and “I went the last 21/2 months without a day
ATR expected, it largely blamed ATR and the they had all concluded there were no safety off,” Connelly said.
FAA. The plaintiffs were finally free to issues involving that aircraft; and they felt Castillo limited ATR and American to six
begin discovery. safe having their people flying those aircraft. experts each; the plaintiffs had eight. The
These men never would have put fellow order of cross-examination in this tri-partite
The deps begin pilots at risk if they would have felt there was trial remained unclear.
a safety issue involved. That was our strategy. Jury selection began Sept. 15—with
When the NTSB report was released, And it would have worked.” copies of the NTSB report adorning the desks
“All hell broke lose,” Clifford said. “It was of both defendants’ and plaintiff’s coun-
non-stop 7 days a week. At some point, Toulouse—the trek sels—and it soon became clear that jurors
everyone in the office was working on this. remembered the weather on Halloween 1994.
Full-time we had five attorneys working Deposing Connelly’s clients would prove a “Everybody remembered the football
on it.” bit more tricky. game that night—it was terrible weather,”
Durkin hit milestones in putting together “ATR, as a foreign sovereign, is beyond the Valukas said.
his case. One was getting the full recorder subpoena power of our court.” Clifford said. Thursday, the day before opening
transcript. Another was having three former “They can come over here, establish a arguments were set, experts were flying into
and current American Eagle pilots offer to corporation, a market; but because they are town; and Clifford was preparing to try his
testify about problems they had with icing on beyond the power of the court, they can pick opening argument on a focus group.
their planes. And another was convincing and choose which employees will be avail- “I reminded the parties that they should
Castillo to let the plaintiffs depose American able for depositions,” Crouse said. “They can consider once again the issue of settlement,”
Airlines CEO Crandall. make us come over there. When it comes Castillo said.
Executives usually are protected from to accounting for what they did, they can The parties were willing to give it one last
having to sit for depositions, but Clifford hide their engineers, the chiefs of their shot. They asked Castillo if he would serve as
and Durkin argued that a major part of their organizations, in France. Jean Rech, their mediator. He declined, saying he wanted to
argument would be American’s push—from chief engineer and the designer of the remain impartial.
the top down—for profitability over safety. aircraft, who was indicted by an Italian They then suggested Aspen.
“Crandall’s testimony supported a view we tribunal for a crash in Italy—we never got
had long held: he’s a businessman. His to take his deposition. Claude Bechet, Shuttle diplomacy
approval came from a business perspective their head of safety—we never got to take
as opposed to a safety perspective. He’s his deposition.”
thinking of protecting the company and the Durkin, Crouse, Connelly and other “The fact that Tony and Bob know me well
stock-holders,” Clifford said. lawyers involved in the case went to Paris and we have been together on social occa-
Clifford videotaped every deposition. and to ATR’s headquarters in the southern sions, I think, is the reason they wanted me to
“This is the first time we’ve done every French city of Toulouse, where ATR has try to settle this case,” Judge Aspen said.
deposition on video,” Clifford said. “In 27,000 employees, to conduct depositions. Schenikier was a former law clerk for Aspen.
a federal case, you’ve got to do it. You “I flew back and forth to Paris three Aspen’s daughter had just started working
don’t have the compulsory process to bring times,” Connelly said. “We were there for at Jenner & Block but all sides agreed they
in witnesses.” Bastille Day—the French 4th of July. We would not consider that a conflict.
“We met in my chambers,” Aspen said. and talking with individual plaintiffs. Some dants in a posture of making sure this type of
“We worked most of the afternoon on were less concerned with money than with negligence didn’t occur again.
Thursday. I had to run out to take my mother getting an apology from American and making “Finally, the three of us agreed on a
to the hospital at 6 p.m., and I couldn’t get sure this accident would not be repeated. number that would be acceptable to her.
back into the Loop. They rented three suites Valukas agreed to issue an apology. Aspen I talked to Valukas, and he made some calls
in [The North Shore Doubletree Hotel in kept Castillo apprised of progress. to Europe. It settled less than an hour before
Skokie], where we worked fairly late that “It’s very humbling for me to be receiving time for opening statements.”
evening. telephone calls from the chief judge at home Three cases involving six estates were not
“We settled about six out of the 30-odd on a Sunday at 8:30 a.m., asking me if it part of the final settlement in Chicago and
cases. It became clear at that time at the pace would be OK for him to call me after 9 likely will proceed to trial or settlement in
we were going, it would not be settled by [the o’clock at night,” Castillo said. “As far as I New York and Florida, Schenkier said. The
next morning.] I talked to Judge Castillo and was concerned, he was working for me on defendants stipulated to liability.
asked him to hold off till noontime.”
Negotiations resumed Friday morning in
Clifford made a mini-opening The bottom line
the Dirksen Federal Building.
“We had as many as 10 plaintiffs’ argument for the families, The total settlement was $110 million,
lawyers,” Aspen said. “We had to make sure showing many of the videos but terms of individual settlements remain
we had some negotiations going between the he had made about their confidential. As for how big a share ATR and
two defendants because the manufacturer American will each contribute, Connelly
was going to blame the carrier, and the carrier
says, “If it wasn’t 50-50, it was close.”
was going to blame the manufacturer. “When a judge can settle a case, and both
“At the same time, we had still a third my case—he could call me whatever time of sides feel they can still work with each other,
satellite settlement track going on with the day he wanted.” I think that is really much more satisfying
insurers. American Airlines had a British By Sunday night, all but one case was than sitting through and trying a perfect
insurer. The manufacturer has a French carrier. settled. Opening argument still was set for trial,” Aspen said. “And it really could not
We had to get the insurers on board. Where 2 p.m. the next day. When lawyer Harry have been accomplished without the very
the insurers were interested solely in the Wilson of Wilson, Kehoe, & Winningham in fine leadership of Mr. Valukas and Mr.
bottom-line dollar figure, the manufacturer Indianapolis got to town Monday morning, Clifford.”
and the carrier were concerned about their Aspen met with him and his client. Many of the plaintiffs’ families had gath-
public corporate image.” “I talked to her alone and to her attorney ered in court. Valukas issued an apology on
Aspen saw enough progress in the talks alone as her attorney asked me to,” Aspen behalf of American. Clifford made a mini-
that he called Castillo and asked him to move said. “She’s a wonderful woman, I spent a opening argument for the families, showing
opening arguments back on Monday. lot of time talking to her about what her many of the videos he had made about their
“We worked all day Saturday in chambers. concerns were—that the negligence was loved ones.
We accomplished a lot, but we weren’t quite acknowledged and that any settlements And a permanent memorial has been erected
there yet.” Aspen said. Aspen was meeting would really have the effect of putting defen- at the site of the crash. #
The New York Times
September 23, 1997
CHICAGO, Sept. 22 (AP) — Families of some of the 68 people killed International Airport, was in a holding pattern in a freezing rain the
three years ago when an American Eagle flight slammed into an evening of Oct. 31, 1994, when it suddenly rolled and plunged to
Indiana farm field settled their lawsuits today with the airline and the ground near Roselawn, Indiana. All aboard the French-built
manufacturers of the airplane, collecting $110 million. ATR-72 turboprop died.
“We are terribly sorry that this happened,” a lawyer for American The crash led the National Transportation Safety Board in 1996 to urge
Airlines, Anton Valukas, said as the settlement was announced. “We tighter regulations on flights by commuter aircraft in icing conditions.
can never compensate you for the loss that you have suffered.” The safety board said the flight’s crew was not responsible.
The settlement covers the deaths of 27 people. An additional two It issued a report faulting French aviation authorities and the makers
lawsuits over the deaths of six people are still in negotiations over of the aircraft, and said the Federal Aviation Administration had failed
the amount of monetary awards. Settlements in the death of 35 other to exert proper authority over the aircraft’s maker.
passengers already have been reached. The board concluded that ATR had failed to adequately report
“It was very fair,” said Kim Collins, 36, of Pittsburgh. Her sister, previous problems encountered by its planes in icy conditions.
Sandi Modaff, was a flight attendant on the plane. “This is a sad day. It also faulted the French Directorate General for Civil Aviation for
It brought all that back.” failing to oversee the manufacturer and to inform the F.A.A. about the
American Eagle Flight 4184, bound from Indianapolis to O’Hare airworthiness of the ATR planes in icy conditions.
DAILY HERALD - NORTHWEST SUBURBS TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23,1997
Flight 4184 crash case settled for $110 million
Some families relieved, others members of victims, ATR attorney Michael
Connelly apologized for the crash, but blamed
it on a “weather phenomenon” that was “very
insist ATR planes still unsafe rarely encountered, very rarely known.”
And, he told the crowded federal courtroom,
BY ROBERT C. HERGUTH on top of the right wing behind the de-icing that good has come out of the accident. It
DAILY HERALD STAFF WRITER “boot,” which contains warm air that’s sparked a massive “international” research
supposed to keep ice from forming, he said. effort aimed at better predicting such weather
“There were seven incidents before this,” events and avoiding such disasters in the
Families were torn apart when an American he said, including a crash in Italy were no future, he said.
Eagle ATR-72 turboprop bound for O’Hare one survived. There were changes in the wake of the
International Airport crashed into an He said the manufacturers did not notify the crash. New procedures were put into place
Indiana cornfield three years ago, killing all public of the problems, and kept quiet a study and larger boots were installed on ATRs.
68 people aboard. on the icing. And, he said, the airline did not But some believe the changes are too little
On Monday, many relatives of those victims adequately train pilots to deal with it. too late, and a few family members were taken
came together in a Chicago courtroom, a few “There could have been better training, there aback by Connelly’s remarks.
with arms around each other, as an “unprece- could have been better design and more Former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who
dented” $110 million settlement was resources committed to do a design or is representing American in the case, also
announced between the families and those redesign of this craft after some of the earlier apologized, saying, “We are terribly sorry this
they claimed were liable for the accident—the incidents,” said Robert E. Bennett, another happened. Terribly sorry. We can never
airline and the aircraft maker. attorney representing family members. compensate you for the loss you have
Though some family members welcomed Clifford said Mary Schiavo—the former suffered. I am sorry this has taken so long to
the settlement—and an emotional apology inspector general for the U.S. Department of get to this resolution.”
from the attorneys representing American and Transportation who has been outspoken over Naperville resident Pat Hansen, whose
the plane manufacturer—others were still the need for increased aviation safety—had brother Frank Sheridan Jr. died in the crash,
bitter and continued to question the safety been tapped to testify. Also, an animated said “That’s what I wanted to hear. That’s
of ATRs. re-enactment of the crash was planned. And what I need to hear.”
“Right now I don’t feel there is justice in the cockpit voice recorder was to have been Some family members, however, remained
this,” said Terri Severin, whose sister Patricia played for jurors, who were dismissed from angry over the way they were treated by
Henry and 4-year-old nephew Patrick of duty before hearing any testimony. American in the aftermath of the crash. Some
Glenview were killed in the Oct. 31, 1994 unidentified body parts, for instance, were
crash of Flight 4184. The truth, according to plaintiff initially buried without family input, and there
“A human life cannot be replaced,” the attorney Robert Clifford of were other charges of insensitivity.
Glenview resident said. “But it’s time for us to Inverness, was that American American has agreed to work on such issues.
turn and go on with our lives.” Airlines and the French plane The settlement effectively ends 26 lawsuits
Jennifer Stansberry agreed. Her 27-year-old manufacturers knew ATRs had covering 27 victims. There are three suits
brother, Brad Stansberry of Indiana, also was “uncommanded roll problems in remaining, covering six victims, but the
killed in the crash. icing conditions” but chose to do liability issue will not be involved. They
“I’m happy for the families, that they can go little about it. might be wrapped up in coming weeks,
home and continue their lives,” Jennifer officials said.
Stansberry, also of Indiana, said. “I’m sad for The settlement, worked on over the past A number of other suits filed on behalf of
the public because they will never know the week with the help of U.S. District Court the 64 passengers and four crew members
whole truth.” Chief Judge Marvin E. Aspen, avoids what killed have been settled.
The truth, according to plaintiff attorney likely would have been an emotional and Among those killed was Mount Prospect
Robert Clifford of Inverness, was that lengthy trial, which was set to start Monday resident Gino De Marco, whose wife was too
American Airlines and the French plane after several delays. distraught to speak publicly Monday. Also
manufacturers knew ATRs had “uncommanded Details of exactly how much each family killed was Barrington resident Ken Spencer,
roll problems in icing conditions” but chose to would receive or how much the airline and whose wife has since moved to New England
do little about it. aircraft maker each would have to pay were and, through her attorney, expressed “relief”
The National Transportation Safety Board not disclosed. at the closure of the case.
has said ice on wings, caused by freezing rain, U.S. District Court Judge Ruben Castillo, Severin said she has heard from pilots that
contributed to the crash. who was presiding over the matter, said he there are still serious concerns about the safe-
A co-pilot noticed the icing prior to the recognized the emotional aspect of the case, ty of ATRs. But, when asked whether he
accident and mentioned it twice before the adding, “I believe this represents the best thought they were safe, Clifford responded: “I
plane rolled violently and then plunged outcome for this case.” would fly in that plane. I flew in one 30 days
toward the ground, Clifford said. Ice formed In a statement directed toward family ago to get ready for trial.”
THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL October 13, 1997
VERDICTS AND SETTLEMENTS
September 23, 1997
CASE TYPE: wrongful death AN AVIONS DE TRANSPORT Regional
CASE: In re Air Crash Disaster near
Roselawn, Indiana, 95 C 4593, MDL 1070
turboprop airplane was flying from
Indianapolis International Airport to Chicago
PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Robert A. Clifford
Oct. 31, 1994, when ice on the aircraft’s wings
caused the plane’s autopilot to disengage and
crash suit ends
and Kevin P. Durkin, of Chicago’s Clifford
Law Offices; Thomas A. Demetrio, of
the plane lurched, rolled over and plunged to
the ground near Roselawn, Ind., said plaintiffs’ in accord;
Chicago’s Corboy & Demetrio P.C.; James
T. Crouse and Gerar R. Lear, of the
counsel Kevin P. Durkin. All 64 passengers
and four crew members were killed. 27 victims’
The families and estates of the victims sued
Rosslyn, Va., office, and Kenneth P. Nolan,
of the New York office, of Rosslyn’s
the makers of the aircraft, Avions de Transport
Regional G.I.E. and Aerospatiale Societé
families to get
Speiser, Krause, Madole & Lear; James
Kreindler, of New York’s Kreindler &
National Industrielle S.A., charging that the
turboprop was defectively designed with a
Kreindler; Donald Nolan, of Chicago’s
Law Offices of Donald Nolan; William
propensity to crash in icy conditions.
The plaintiffs also sued AMR Corp. and its
Maready, of Winston-Salem, N.C.’s
Maready, Comerford & Britt; Harry
divisions, AMR Eagle Inc. and Simmons
Airlines, owners and operators of the aircraft,
Wilson, of Whinningham, Ind.’s Wilson & charging negligence for operating the ATR
turboprop in cold weather. By Terry Wilson
Kehoe; and Michael Slack, of Austin, and John Schmeltzer
The claims of 27 families settled Sept. 22.
Texas’ Slack & Davis Tribune Staff Writers
The defentants agreed to pay a total of $108
DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Anton Valukas and million to the plaintiffs. How much each A three-year quest for a public accounting
Sidney Scheinkier, of Chicago’s Jenner & family will receive has yet to be determined, in the crash of American Eagle Flight 4184
Block; and Michael Connelly, of Chicago’s said defence counsel Michael Connelly. The ended abruptly Monday, when a federal judge
Connelly & Schroeder percentage owed by each group of defendants announced a $110 million settlement for
SETTLEMENT AMOUNT: $108 million has also not been set, he added. the relatives of 27 people killed when their
turboprop plane slammed into an Indiana
October 1997 The settlement ended efforts to force the
plane’s manufacturer, the French and Italian
consortium Avions de Transport Regional, to
admit the design of its rubber de-icing boot
was insufficient and that pilot manuals failed
to adequately explain the danger.
More than a dozen family members has
$110M Settlement for Air Crash Victims gathered in the courtroom of U.S. District
Judge Ruben Castillo, where lawyers were
TWENTY-SEVEN families with members Thomas Demetrio of Chicago’s Corboy about to begin opening statements before
who died in an American Eagle plane & Demetrio. a jury.
crash three years ago have settled with the According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, But intensive mediation efforts spearheaded
defendants shortly before trial. In re Air Flight 4184 crashed after flying in a by Chief Judge Marvin Aspen, under way
Crash Disaster Near Roselawn, Ind., on holding pattern for almost 40 minutes in since last week, helped broker the settlement.
Oct. 31, 1994, MDL No. 1070 (N.D. Ill. a flight scheduled to go from Indianapolis “We are terribly sorry this happened. We
Sept. 22). The plaintiffs had agreed to to Chicago. Ice built up on the wings of can never compensate you for the losses you
remain as a group until liability and the aircraft, and the plane eventually rolled suffered. I’m sorry it took so long,” said an
damages issues were resolved—and their over and crashed. All 68 people aboard the emotional Anton Valukas, who represented
strategy worked. The defendants, including flight died. American Airlines, the parent company of
American Airlines Inc., Simmons Airlines The defendants’ handling of notifications American Eagle.
Inc., American Eagle and airplane manu- of family members about the crash had Sixty-eight people died on Oct. 31, 1994,
facturer Avions de Transport Regional, been criticized, with some people report- when an American Eagle ATR-72 turboprop
G.I.E., agreed to a settlement of roughly edly receiving the tragic news on the suddenly rolled into a nose dive and crashed
$110 million. answering machines. The plaintiffs’ into the ground near Roselawn, Ind., its wings
“Fate thrust these families together on lawyers are urging the federal government encrusted in ice.
Halloween night in 1994 and together to mandate changes. The crash prompted changes in the air-
they remained bonded in seeing each Anton Valukas of Chicago’s Jenner & craft’s design, pilot guidelines and, most
other through this terrible ordeal,” said Block was lead counsel for the airline recently, a decision by American to begin
plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Clifford of the defendants. Michael Connelly of replacing its turboprops at O’Hare
Clifford Law Offices in Chicago, who Connelly & Schroeder represented the International Airport with jet aircraft
led the plaintiffs’ legal team, along with plane manufacturer. beginning next year.
“I’m happy it’s over,” said Jennifer “The settlement is not that far off, and it Another member of the team of plaintiffs’
Stansberry, of Anderson, Ind., whose brother gets the case behind them, which is exactly lawyers contended that the French-Italian
Brad, 27, was killed in the crash and whose what American would like,” said Tom consortium was aware of the plane’s
family settled its lawsuit last January. Carroll, an airline analyst with Chicago-based dangerous characteristics.
“I’m glad for the families. But I’m sad for Duff & Phelps Credit Rating. William Maready, a Winston-Salem, N.C.,
the public because they will never know Said Clifford: “I don’t believe [American lawyer, said another plane has suffered the
the truth.” Airlines] was intimidated by anything other same fate seven years before Flight 4184.
Monday’s settlement ended litigation by all than the knowledge that this accident “The Italians [investigating the accident]
of the victims’ families except for six. Those occurred under circumstances where it should recommended they increase the boot size on
cases, virtually settled but with damage not have occurred. the wing,” Maready said. “[The manufacturer]
amounts still undetermined, are expected to “We were prepared to offer expert testimony didn’t do anything. There were several
be resolved soon, attorneys said. that this plane was defectively designed, that warnings leading up to Roselawn.”
The settlement brought some measure the plane has performance characteristics that Clifford said much of the blame can be
of closure for the relatives of the people the manufacturer did not sufficiently tell the traced to a breakdown in information sharing
who died in the crash of American Eagle operators about and we were prepared to between the manufacturer of the aircraft and
Flight 4184. show that the operators did not adequately the operator.
train their pilots to know what they needed Although a jury did not see or hear the
Plaintiffs were ready to argue to know.” evidence, Clifford said he did something
Valukas offered a different motivation. Monday he had never done in the past.
the plane’s maker was to blame “What we have here today is something With the survivors’ families as spectators,
due to faulty design of the that gives some sense of closure to family he gave his opening statement with all the
members,” he said. “This was not anything information the plaintiffs’ attorneys had
de-icing boot. compiled so they could know every detail of
Since the crash of Flight 4184, the rubber what lead to the crash.
The apology by Valukas “went a long way “They listened with an intensity level that I
with some of these families to heal some de-icing boots, which dislodge ice from the
wing, have been enlarged on the ATR-72 to haven’t seen in a long time,” Clifford said.
wounds,” said Robert A. Clifford, the lead “They heard every single word, phrase
attorney for the plaintiffs. “It was balm for make it harder for ice that cannot be removed
to form, Clifford said. and detail.”
some very sore spots.” For family members, Monday’s settlement
The $110 million settlement, which The manufacturer also has become more
allows for a new beginning.
covered 27 of those killed, was slightly above explicit in its operation manuals to give pilots
“It’s time for us to go on with our lives. I’m
average for this type of settlement. better instruction about how to fly the plane.
happy this is bringing this piece to an end,”
Most cases are settled for $1million to And airline operators are taking steps to
said Terri Severin, 21, whose sister Patricia
$3 million per fatality. better train pilots, so they know about the
Henry, 37, and nephew, Patrick Henry, 4, died
On average in this case, the families performance characteristics of the aircraft in
in the crash.
received $4.07 million, to be paid by unusual conditions, Clifford said.
American Airlines, Simmons Airlines, The Federal Aviation Administration also is
American Eagle and Avions de Transport considering more stringent guidelines for
Regional G.I.E. (ATR), the French manufac- ensuring that aircraft are better equipped to Tribune reporter Matt O’Connor contributed
turer of the aircraft. fly in freezing rain. to this report.
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
$110 million accord told in American Eagle plane crash
By M.A. Stapleton In an unusual move, the plaintiffs in this people of the 68 on board. An additional
Law Bulletin staff writer case pledged to stay together as a bloc until all two lawsuits over the deaths of six people
remaining liability and damages claims were are still in negotiations over the amount of
Families of 27 people killed three years ago settled. Robert A. Clifford of the Clifford monetary awards.
when an American Eagle flight slammed into Law Offices and Thomas A. Demetrio of The families of the remaining 35 victims
an Indiana farm field settled their lawsuits Corboy & Demetrio headed the team of agreed to damages-only trials; court-ordered
Monday with the airline and manufacturers of plaintiff lawyers. settlement discussions are to begin within
the airplane for approximately $110 million. Clifford said he was “very pleased” with 30 days, Clifford said.
“We are terribly sorry that this happened,” the terms of the settlement. “This is a home The settlement was reached just one week
American Airlines attorney Anton Valukas run for the people.” after the trial had started in federal court here
of Jenner & Block said as the settlement Under the terms of the agreement, before U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo.
was announced in the courtroom. “We can exact amounts for individual plaintiffs Chief U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen
never compensate you for the losses that you are confidential. assisted in the round-the-clock settlement
have suffered.” The settlement covers the deaths of 27 discussions, which were initiated by the
defendants and began on Thursday, Indianapolis to O’Hare International Airport, adequately report previous problems encoun-
Clifford said. was in a holding pattern in a freezing rain the tered by its planes in icy conditions.
Castillo announced the settlement agreement evening of Oct. 31, 1994, when it suddenly It also blamed the French Directorate General
in court Monday at about noon, shortly before rolled and plunged to the ground near For Civil Aviation for failing to oversee the
opening arguments were slated to begin. The Roselawn, Indiana. All 68 people aboard the manufacturer and to inform the FAA about the
jury was selected last week. French-built ATR-72 turboprop died. airworthiness of the ATR planes in icy condi-
Defendants include American Airlines, The crash led the National Transportation tions as specified by international agreements.
Simmons Airlines, American Eagle and Safety Board in 1996 to urge tighter regula- The plaintiffs’ legal team also included
Avions de Transport Regional G.I.E. (ATR), tions on flights by commuter aircraft in
Kevin Durkin, a partner at the Clifford Law
the French manufacturer of the aircraft. icing conditions.
Offices; James Crouse of Speiser, Krause,
Lawyers for the defendants have denied The NTSB said the flights crew was
Madole & Lear, and Chicago sole practitioner
liability in the accident. not responsible.
“It was very fair,“ Kim Collins, 36, of It issued a report blaming French aviation Donald J. Nolan.
Pittsburgh said of the settlement. Her sister, authorities and the makers of the aircraft, and The case is In re Air Crash Disaster Near
Sandi Modaff, was a flight attendant on said the Federal Aviation Administration Roselawn, Ind., on Oct. 31, 1994, No. 95 C
the plane. “This is a sad day. It brought all failed to exert proper authority over the 4593.
that back.” aircraft’s maker.
American Eagle Flight 4184, bound from The board concluded that ATR failed to — The Associated Press contributed.
Chicago Sun-Times September 23, 1997
Airline settles crash suit
BY MICHAEL GILLIS Some family members said they had mixed feelings about the
FEDERAL COURT REPORTER settlement, which saves them from going through an emotional trial but
eliminates their chance to highlight their ongoing doubts about the
A trial over the fatal 1994 crash of an American Eagle flight in
Roselawn, Ind., was averted at the last minute Monday when the airline
“Right now, I don’t feel there is justice in this. A human life cannot be
and aircraft maker agreed to pay $110 million to the families of 27 victims.
replaced,” said Terri Severin of Glenview, who lost her sister and
The settlement announcement—which came after a jury had been
nephew in the crash. “It’s time for us to turn and go on with our lives.”
picked for the case—featured an unusual courtroom apology from
Valukas said he had no doubt the plane was safe.
lawyers for the defendants.
“Without even a question,” Valukas said. “This plane has undergone
“We are terribly sorry this happened, terribly sorry,” Anton Valukas,
more safety testing than any other aircraft now flying. There is not even
the former U.S. atttorney who was representing the airline in the case,
said to relatives in the packed gallery. “We can never compensate you an issue with this aircraft.”
for the losses you suffered.” Robert Clifford, the main attorney for the families, agreed the plane
Sixty-eight people were killed when the ATR-72 from Indianapolis to now is safe. He said the manufacturer changed the design of the plane
Chicago plunged into an Indiana cornfield. The National Transportation to block the buildup of ice on the wings. And pilots are being better
Safety Board concluded the French-made plane, which was in a holding trained about flying the plane in unusual conditions, he said.
pattern for 40 minutes, had developed ice on top of its wings, causing it Research prompted by the crash has shown how to cope with the
to roll out of control. problem of freezing drizzle that can lead to icing, said Michael
The NTSB faulted the manufacturer and French aviation authorities Connelly, who represented the manufacturers and also apologized to
for failing to adequately report the plane’s previous icing problems. the families.
French officials, however, strongly disagreed with the American report. The agreement was reached after a weekend of negotiations
Lawyers for the defentants denied all liability in the accident. presided over by U.S. District Chief Judge Marvin Aspen, who at one
Settlements were previously reached in 35 other deaths from the crash. point summoned lawyers to a Skokie hotel for a negotiating session,
Damages remain unsettled in two lawsuits arising from six crash deaths. lawyers said.
CLIFFORD LAW OFFICES, P.C.
120 North LaSalle Street Telephone (312) 899-9090
31st Floor Fax (312) 251-1160
Chicago, Illinois 60602 Web site: www.CliffordLaw.com