Will Skinner

skinner@skinnerlawgroup.com
Office: (818) 710-7700
Direct: (818) 710-7708

SERVICES

  • Aviation

  • Product Liability

  • Business solutions

  • Employment

NARRATIVE

Will is the founder of Skinner Law Group. He has trial and litigation experience covering a broad range of areas, including product liability, aviation, commercial and contract disputes, employment, intellectual property, unfair competition, personal injury and wrongful death. He devotes a significant portion of his practice to handling aviation litigation matters but also has extensive experience litigating cases in a wide range of areas in state and federal court throughout the United States.

Will actively works with clients to avoid or minimize litigation, including conducting ongoing in-house product integrity training for a major general aviation manufacturer. However, when his clients become involved in litigation, Will’s approach is to aggressively and efficiently defend his clients with the goal of forcing an early dismissal or resolution when appropriate and possible. In numerous cases, he has obtained an early dismissal or resolution that allows his client to save considerable resources and focus on their core business rather than defending an ongoing lawsuit. When an early dismissal or resolution is not appropriate or possible, he will cost effectively prepare the case for trial and then try the case.

His aviation practice has included defending general aviation product liability actions, personal injury and wrongful death claims arising out of international air transportation, commercial and contract disputes involving general aviation manufacturers and commercial airlines, libel and defamation actions involving airlines, employment matters and sexual harassment and assault claims involving airline personnel. Will is also national coordinating counsel of asbestos claims for a general aviation manufacturer.

Will has also represented the pharmaceutical industry in thousands of complex mass tort actions in multiple jurisdictions throughout the United States and defended medical device manufacturers in personal injury and wrongful death product liability actions.

REPRESENTATIVE MATTERS

  • 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.

  • Representing a general aviation manufacturer as lead trial counsel 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. Will 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 Will’s client finding that Plaintiffs failed to prove their manufacturing defect claims and that the accident was caused by pilot error. See Higley v. Cessna Aircraft Co., 2013 WL 5315299 (C.D. Cal. 2013).
  • Represented a cultural organization and its leadership as trial counsel in a lawsuit arising from an attempted take over 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, Will obtained a verdict in favor of his clients.
  • Will and one of his former partners 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 an international tobacco client in a trademark, trade name and unfair competitions lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court targeted at prohibiting the client from using its company name and competing with a rival tobacco company. Will won a motion for summary judgment and obtained a ruling permitting his client to continue operating using its company name and trademark.
  • Represented a general aviation engine manufacturer as lead trial counsel 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, Will 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. Will 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. He also won a motion to compel arbitration in federal court regarding certain aspects of the claims forcing the plaintiff to arbitrate those claims in the home country of the foreign airlines. The state court action was dismissed.
  • Defended Singapore Airlines in the mass air disaster involving flight SQ006 on Oct. 31, 2000, involving the crash of a Boeing 747 on take-off from the Chaing Kai Shek International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan. Numerous personal injury and wrongful death actions were filed throughout the United States as a result of this accident.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS

  • Royal Aeronautical Society – London
  • The Aviation Club – London
  • Lawyers-Pilots Bar Association
  • Aviation Insurance Association
  • ABA’s Aviation Litigation Section and Aviation & Space Law Committee
  • Helicopter Association International
  • International Air & Transportation Safety Bar Association
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • Los Angeles County Bar Association

PUBLICATIONS

  • Recent Developments in Aviation Law – 2011, 77 J. AIR L. & COM. 275, Spring 2012, Co-Author
  • DOHSA’s Commercial Aviation Exception: How Mass Airline Disasters Influenced Congress On Compensation For Deaths On The High Seas, 75 J. AIR L. & COM. 137, Winter 2010, Co-Author
  • Preemption In The Ninth Circuit: Martin v. Midwest and the Pervasive Regulation Standard, AVIATION LITIGATION QUARTERLY, Spring 2009 (Vol. 10, No. 1), republished in APPELLATE PRACTICE JOURNAL, Summer 2009 (Vol. 28, No. 3), Author
  • The Preemptive Effect of the Federal Aviation Act: The Question of GARA and Congressional Intent to Occupy the Field of Aviation Safety, ANNALS OF AIR & SPACE LAW, Vol. XXXIV 2009, Co-Author
  • The Sophisticated Pilot: A New Line of Defense In The Field of General Aviation, 73 J. AIR L. & COM. 527, Summer 2008, Author
  • THE LIABILITY REPORTER (International Air Transport Association and Condon & Forsyth LLP) from 2000-2003, (Volumes 3-6), Contributing Author
  • Preventing Gray Markets: Is Copyright Law The Solution? 26 SYRACUSE J. INT’L L. & COM. 318, Spring 1999, Author

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

  • London Market Professionals – Claims Matters, An International Perspective on Claims Handling, Panel Member, February 2014
  • 46th Annual SMU Air Law Symposium, Recent Developments in Aviation Law, Speaker, March 2012

HIGHER EDUCATION

  • Syracuse University College of Law, J.D., cum laude, 1999
    • Syracuse Journal of International Law & Commerce, Senior Editor
    • The Labor Lawyer (ABA Publication), Senior Editor,
    • Syracuse Law and Technology Journal, founding member and Executive Editor
  • Western Washington University, B.A., cum laude, 1996

ADMISSIONS

  • California
  • California federal courts
  • U.S. Supreme Court