Fort Lauderdale, FL— Attorneys Thursday debated whether defective design or pilot error caused a 2014 plane crash that seriously injured a Georgia couple, as trial opened against the plane’s manufacturer. McCaleb v. Daher-Socata, CACE15014561.
“The defendants had more than two years to solve this problem, and I’d like you to know that Blaine McCaleb, as the pilot of this airplane, had less than five-and-a-half minutes to solve the problem,” Katzman, Lampert & Stoll’s David Katzman told jurors Thursday of the Fayetteville, Georgia crash that injured McCaleb and his wife, Cynthia McCaleb.
The McCalebs’ Socata TBM 700/850 turboprop plane crashed after fuel became unported, or sloshed away from the fuel line during a sideslip while the plane was on autopilot, a maneuver that tilts the craft.
Cynthia McCaleb, an internal medicine physician, suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple fractures, among other injuries. Her husband, Blaine McCaleb injured his neck and back in the crash.
The McCalebs contend Daher-Socata and Socata North America, the plane’s manufacturer and North American distributor, are at fault for designing the plane to use a pumpless, gravity-fed fuel system that would allow fuel to unport in sideslips, and for failing to properly warn owners following a similar wreck more than two years before the McCalebs’ crash.
“Having an airplane this fast, this powerful… you put in a fuel pump to pressurize the fuel system,” Katzman said, adding that evidence would also show defects in the plane’s safety restraints turned the McCalebs into “missiles” in the cockpit when the plane crashed.
However, the defense contends pilot error, rather than issues with the plane’s design, caused the wreck. “It was a crash as a result of, and I don’t want to be mean, imprudent, unwise, incautious choices made by Blaine McCaleb,” Nixon Peabody’s Joseph Ortego told jurors Thursday. “He crashed a perfectly good aircraft. There was nothing ever wrong with that aircraft.”
Ortego told jurors McCaleb committed several errors that contributed to the crash, including allowing the aircraft to fly “crooked” for more than five minutes, contributing to the unporting. Moreover, Ortego said McCaleb failed to activate a safety switch before flight that would have prevented the fuel from unporting in the first place. “Flip the switch,” Ortego said. “None of us would be here today, if Mr. McCaleb had flipped the switch.”
Trial in the case is expected to last three weeks.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The McCalebs are represented by Katzman Lampert & Stoll’s David Katzman, Bradley Stoll, and Bruce Lampert.
Daher-Socata and Socata North America are represented by Nixon Peabody’s Brian Dalrymple, Joseph Ortego, and Erik Goergen and by Akerman LLP’s Michael Marsh and Donnie King.
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