Aviation

  • Following an 11-week jury trial, the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington jury found that a fatal June 1, 2010 aircraft accident at Merrill Field in Anchorage, Alaska was caused solely by the negligence of the aircraft’s pilot, Preston Cavner.  The verdict completely vindicated engine manufacturer Continental Motors, Inc., which was represented by Skinner Law Group.  Will Skinner was lead trial counsel.  http://www.adn.com/article/20160427/jury-finds-anchorage-pilot-was-fault-2010-plane-crash-killed-his-son

    Pilot Preston Cavner and his wife Stacie Cavner own Port Alsworth, Alaska-based Cavner & Julian, Inc., which provides hunting and other wilderness expedition services from Stonewood Lodge located on Alaska’s Lake Clark, about 180 miles west of Anchorage.  On June 1, 2010, Preston Cavner overloaded his company’s Cessna U206F aircraft by several hundred pounds with lumber, tile, and other cargo.  Five people were on board: Preston and Stacie Cavner; their sons Myles (age 4) and Hudson (age 2); and Rachel Zientek (a 16-year-old babysitter).  After taking off from Merrill Field, the aircraft crashed into a vacant building in downtown Anchorage, just blocks from the airport.  A post-crash fire erupted.  Passersby rescued the four survivors, who suffered significant burns and other injuries.  However, 4-year-old Myles Cavner perished.

    In 2012, the Cavners and the Zienteks sued engine manufacturer Continental, alleging that a product defect actually caused the accident.  Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award Plaintiffs more than $120 million. The 11-week trial began on January 25, 2016, and Continental presented witnesses including Alaskan pilots and aviation mechanics who observed the brief accident flight and testified that the engine sounded strong and healthy, but that the aircraft appeared to be overloaded and struggled to gain altitude. Both sides presented expert witnesses.  After a day and a half of deliberations, the 12-person jury returned a verdict vindicating Continental of any liability and finding that pilot Preston Cavner’s negligence was the sole cause of the fatal June 1, 2010 accident.

  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a personal injury lawsuit arising out of the crash of a Cessna 210 at the Eros Airport in Windhoek, Namibia. One of the plaintiffs, a California resident, suffered spinal cord injuries resulting from the accident and filed suit along with her husband seeking damages in excess of $30 million. We prevailed on a motion to bifurcate liability and damages at trial. After a five-day bench trial in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Court ruled in favor of our client finding that Plaintiffs failed to prove their manufacturing defect claims and that the accident was cause by pilot error. See Higley v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 2013 WL 5315299 (C.D. Cal. 2013).
  • We were retained as trial counsel less than one month before trial to defend a general aviation engine manufacturer in a wrongful death case pending in Gwinnett County Superior Court for the State of Georgia. The case involved the crash of a Cessna 210 aircraft where the pilot, a prominent anesthesiologist, claimed he had an engine failure shortly before he crashed into a pine tree. Plaintiffs sought damages in excess of $18 million. After a two-week jury trial, the jury deliberated for a number of days and then awarded only $1.7 million, substantially below what plaintiffs had requested at trial.
  • Represented a general aviation engine manufacturer at trial in a commercial and breach of warranty case involving a Cirrus SR22 aircraft. After a five-day jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, we obtained a defense verdict.
  • Represented an international airline in a breach of contract and libel action where actions were filed in both federal and state court. We won a motion for summary judgment in federal court and obtained a ruling that the published statements were not libelous and there was no breach of contract. We also won a motion to compel arbitration in federal court regarding certain aspects of the claims forcing the plaintiff to arbitrate those claims in Sri Lanka, the home country of the foreign airline. The state court action was dismissed.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in wrongful death actions arising out of the crash of a Beechcraft G36 near Hawthorne, California resulting in three fatalities.  All four wrongful death lawsuits were settled for a total of $100,000.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in three wrongful death actions arising from the crash of a Cessna 421B near Big Bear, California resulting in three fatalities.  All cases dismissed – no settlement paid.
  • Represented an aviation maintenance facility in an action in California for fraud, intentional misrepresentation, breach of contract and breach of warranty arising from the sale and overhaul of aircraft engines.  Case dismissed based on motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in an action in California for breach of contract and breach of warranties regarding purchase and delivery of an engine.  Case resolved for nuisance value.
  • Represented a FBO in an action in New York for breach of contract and breach of warranty arising from the sale and overhaul of aircraft engines.  Case dismissed with prejudice within five months – no settlement paid.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a wrongful death action in Nevada arising out of the crash of a Cessna 320D aircraft near Fallon, Nevada resulting in four fatalities.  Case dismissed – no settlement paid.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a personal injury action in Ohio arising out of the crash of a Mooney M20R aircraft near Akron, Ohio.  Case dismissed – no settlement paid.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a wrongful death action arising from the crash of a Piper Seneca V near Tomball, Texas resulting in two fatalities.  Case resolved on eve of trial on favorable terms for client.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a wrongful death action arising from the crash of a Lancair Legacy aircraft near Murrieta, California resulting in one fatality.  Case dismissed – no settlement paid.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a breach of warranty action in New Hampshire arising from the sale of an engine and cylinders.  Case dismissed based on motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a wrongful death action arising from the crash of a Beech 58 aircraft near Saltsburg, Pennsylvania resulting in two fatalities.  Case dismissed – no settlement paid.

Business Disputes

  • Represented a cultural organization and its leadership at trial in a lawsuit arising from an attempted takeover of that organization and its property by disgruntled ex-members who had been ousted from the organization. After a several day bench trial in the Los Angeles Superior Court for the State of California, we obtained a verdict in favor of our clients.
  • Represented an international tobacco client in a trademark, trade name and unfair competition lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court targeted at prohibiting the client from using its company name and competing with a rival tobacco company. We won a motion for summary judgment and obtained a ruling permitting our client to continue operating using its company name and trademark.
  • Represented a company in a breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment action in California involving the sale of components for space satellites.  Plaintiff claimed damages in excess of $500,000.  Case resolved on favorable terms for client.
  • Won unanimous jury verdict for Am Law 100 law firm against $40 million claim alleging firm lawyers had provided erroneous legal advice on international trade issues

Education

  • Resolved conflict concerning university discipline involving potential Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Clery Act issues.

Employment

  • Represented a company in a wrongful termination action in California by former employee.  Case resolved on favorable terms for client.
  • Represented a company in an action for failure to pay overtime wages, denial of meals and violation of various labor codes in California by former employee.  Case resolved on favorable terms for client.
  • Leveraged and negotiated nuisance settlements in multiple wrongful termination cases involving claims based on whistleblower and anti-discrimination laws in several jurisdictions.
  • Managed national Fair Labor Standards Act class action that resulted in highly favorable mediated settlement.

Product Liability

  • Represented a manufacturer of a component part for a rebreather unit in a wrongful death action in California arising from the death of a diver who was diving near the Olympic shipwreck off the coast of Los Angeles while using the rebreather unit.  Plaintiff claimed economic and non-economic damages in excess of $15 million. Case resolved on favorable terms for client.
  • Represented a manufacturer of a water sampler in a personal injury action in Arizona arising from a water treatment plant operator who suffered acidic burns to his face, neck and arms after a water sampling accident involving the sampler.  Case dismissed – no settlement paid.
  • Represented a manufacturer of a component of an ozone scrubber in a personal injury action in California arising from an explosion of the ozone scrubber resulting in burns and disfigurement.  Case resolved on favorable terms for client.

Tax

  • Prevailed on a Kentucky Department of Revenue administrative appeal hearing related to the taxability of on the taxability of ancillary customer charges related to linen supply services resulting in the elimination of an over $1 million audit liability assessment.
  • Successfully defended a Fortune 500 defense manufacturer in a California State Board of Equalization tax audit that involved several independent companies spanning multiple tax periods due to merger and acquisition activity. The case involved several legal issues including Federal Supremacy issues related to a state’s ability to impose tax.
  • Received a favorable conclusion on appeal to the Iowa Department of Revenue resulting in a reduction in tax liability related to ancillary customer charges in association with leases of tangible personal property.
  • Negotiated a successful settlement for a client during the protest process with the California State Board of Equalization related to the tax implications of whether installed bus stops were tangible personal property or real property for tax purposes.
  • Negotiated software licensing and consulting support, and led the business implementation of complex transaction tax software for a $1.6 billion organization. The project required modification to accounts payable, purchasing and finance procedures while balancing the need for compliance with tax laws against creating a system of efficient business processes to allow for automation of several key business functions.

Toxic Torts

  • Negotiated a favorable settlement on behalf of a chemical manufacturer alleged to have caused Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and death as a result of exposure to 21 of its chemical products.
  • Represented a general aviation manufacturer in a wrongful death action in Massachusetts arising from alleged asbestos exposure.  Case resolved on eve of trial on favorable terms for client.