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'Record settlement' for Singapore Airlines SQ006 crash

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'Record settlement' for Singapore Airlines SQ006 crash

Old 19th Sep 2003, 08:12
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'Record settlement' for Singapore Airlines SQ006 crash

'Record settlement' for Taipei crash
From correspondents in Los Angeles
September 19, 2003

SINGAPORE Airlines settled a negligence lawsuit brought by a survivor of a plane crash that killed 83 people three years ago for a "record sum" of money, lawyers said.

The carrier's agreement to pay retired college professor Harald Linke for the trauma and injuries he suffered in the crash in Taiwan in October 2000 cut short a trial that was underway in Los Angeles, Linke's lawyers said.

"They finally offered us what we deemed to be an honourable amount," said attorney Kevin Boyle, adding that the terms of the deal were protected by a confidentiality agreement.

"The amount was extremely substantial and probably a record sum for a post traumatic stress syndrome case without significant injury," Boyle said of the deal that came after earlier settlement offers by the airline were rejected.

The financial deal was "commensurate with what is normally appropriate in wrongful death settlements", he said.

Linke, 67, suffered severe post traumatic stress and a bulging neck disc when a Singapore Airlines jet crashed while attempting to take off on the wrong runway at Taipei's Chiang Kai-Shek airport on October 31, 2000.

The Boeing 747-400 jet, en route from Singapore to Los Angeles, ploughed into construction equipment after mistakenly turning onto a runway that was closed for repairs, killing 83 of the 179 people on board.

The former New York University biology professor's suit was the first of several brought over the crash of Flight SQ006 to reach trial, his lawyers said.

The settlement should set an important precedent in resolving more than 140 lawsuits stemming from the crash that took place as the jet tried to take off in rain-swept conditions spawned by an approaching typhoon, they said.

Those cases are being heard in California as the jet was bound for Los Angeles after a refuelling stop in Taipei.

The next "exemplar" case stemming from the crash is due to go to trial here on September 30. It was brought by a passenger who was badly burned when the jet burst into flames after hitting a crane and a concrete barrier during take-off.

Lawyers for Singapore Airlines, which is currently facing financial hurdles following an industry downturn spawned by the war in Iraq and Asia's SARS epidemic, could not be reached for comment.

The company said in May it was taking steps to settle lawsuits filed against it in the United States.

It offered to pay 400,000 US dollars for every passenger and crew member killed and 20,000 dollars to those who survived.

Agence France-Presse


September 18, 2003 01:19 PM US Eastern Timezone

Linke vs. Singapore Airlines Crash of Flight SQ006 Settles Just Two Days After the Start of Trial

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 18, 2003--Dr. Harald Linke's negligence claim against Singapore Airlines in Los Angeles Federal Court settled today for a substantial sum of money just two days after the trial began on September 16, 2003. The parties mutually agreed not to disclose the actual amount of the agreement, which was entered into the record by The Hon. Gary A. Fees. Dr. Linke was one of the 159 passengers and 20 crew members on board Singapore Airlines Flight SQ006 which crashed on October 31, 2000 at Chiang Kai Shek International Airport. Of those traveling on the Boeing 747-400 passenger jet, 83 people were killed, and 64 people were injured, many from the Los Angeles area. Dr. Linke was represented by Brian J. Panish and Kevin Boyle with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP. In Re Air Crash at Taipei, Taiwan on October 31, 2000, Case No. 01-MDL-1394-GAF (Rcx), US District Court, Central District of California.
Dr. Harald Linke, a retired New York University biology professor, was a passenger on Singapore Airlines' Flight SQ006 which was attempting to depart for Los Angeles, CA. from the Chiang Kai Shek International Airport on the evening of October 31, 2000. The pilot of Flight SQ006 used the wrong runway, which allegedly caused the crash. As a consequence, Dr. Linke suffered from post traumatic stress disorder.

"For Dr. Linke, we are pleased to say that justice was served albeit three years after the crash," said Brian Panish. "It took the empaneling of a jury to get Singapore Airlines to do the honorable thing. The result, however, does send a strong message to Singapore Airlines that the U.S. court system does have teeth and that the other cases that are pending trial will need to be similarly resolved."
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Old 19th Sep 2003, 21:50
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19 September 2003 2131 hrs (SST) 1331 hrs (GMT)

SIA settles first lawsuit over SQ006 crash, survivor claims record sum paid
Channel NewsAsia

By Cheryl Fox

Singapore Airlines has settled a lawsuit brought by an American survivor of the SQ006 crash.

But neither side is saying how much money changed hands.

The lawsuit, the first in America, was brought by a retired university professor Harald Linke who says he suffered severe post-traumatic stress and a bulging neck disc after the crash three years ago.

On October 31st 2000, Singapore Airlines flight 006 crashed after the pilots tried to take off from a runway that had been closed for repairs at Taipei's Chiang Kai-Shek airport.

The Boeing 747 was en route from Singapore to Los Angeles, and 83 of the 179 passengers and crew on board were killed and another 57 were injured in the crash.

Lawyers for retired university professor Harald Linke, one of those injured, claim the amount SIA is paying their client as compensation is "extremely substantial and probably a record sum" for such a case.

But the airline denies this saying "it is substantially less than" what Mr Linke had demanded.

A spokesman for SIA added: "We do not know the basis for saying that the settlement is a record sum."

The terms of the settlement are protected by a confidentiality agreement.

SIA had earlier offered compensation of US$400,000 for any passenger or crew killed in the crash, and US$20,000 to those who survived.

So will this set a precedent in resolving the more than 140 other lawsuits stemming from the crash?

Lawyer Sarinder Singh said: "The remaining suits will be settled along the same line, they will try and settle it out of court, but if they fail and they are to proceed to trial, and if Singapore airlines is found to be guilty, then they would have to pay a far larger sum of money than they would, had they settled in this particular case".

But some lawyers say a settlement - no matter how large - is actually a good legal strategy.

"A settlement is not finding of negligence or guilt against SIA in an American court. The implication of that is simply that SIA is in the position to dispute liability in respect to any other law suits that may be pursued against them," said lawyer Suresh Damodara.

The next lawsuit, by a passenger badly burnt in the crash, is scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles on September 30.
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Old 20th Sep 2003, 09:28
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Excerpts from the Straits Times, 20th Sept, 2003

Mr Brian Panish, a lawyer for Dr Linke, said his firm, Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, is handling another 15 cases in the United States against SIA in relation to the crash. He said the settlement bodes well for the other cases.

'It looks good. This is the case that they chose to have tried first, which they thought was the least injured of all our clients. The others have multiple injuries and burns,' he said. Dr Linke did not have any burn injuries.

Dr Linke's attorneys claimed that he suffered neck injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. SIA's attorneys argued that only the post-traumatic stress disorder was caused by the crash.

The next case, on Sept 30, in Los Angeles, will be that of Dr David Ralph, a professor at Pepperdine University's business school. He had burn injuries, brain damage and hurt his spine, said Mr Panish.

Attorney Kevin Boyle, who together with Mr Panish is representing the plaintiffs said Dr Ralph lost a lot of agility in his hands and arms as a result of his cartilage melting from a fire in the tail section, where he was suspended in the air by his seatbelt.

'There's no figure yet. But he has millions of dollars worth of medical bills and lost income,' said Mr Panish.

SIA had earlier offered US$400,000 (S$697,000) to the families of those who died in the crash and US$20,000 to those who were injured.

The airline faces parallel lawsuits in Singapore where it is being sued by more than 20 survivors and next of kin. Some of them are also involved in the US lawsuits.

While it is not known how much Dr Linke asked for and the final settlement obtained, in a previous case, a Montana woman was awarded US$1.25 million in damages in 2001 for emotional trauma suffered during an emergency landing aboard a Delta Air Lines jet. The judge ruled that Ms Kathy Weaver, 44, was entitled to damages as her terror during the landing led to physical changes in the brain that could be defined as injury.
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Old 6th Oct 2003, 08:43
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The Straits Times, 4th Oct, 2003

SIA agrees on payout deals for 75 victims
Lawyers say once benchmark payments are set for first few cases, more out-of-court settlements are likely to be reached

By Karamjit Kaur

WITH the recent settlement reached with an American passenger who was on board SQ006 when it crashed in Taipei three years ago, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has now agreed on compensation terms with 75 of the 159 passengers on the flight.

And although more than 100 lawsuits still remain in the United States, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan and Canada, lawyers believe that once the first few cases are heard and benchmark payments reached, more out-of-court settlements may follow.

At a media briefing yesterday, SIA spokesman Rick Clements explained that in Los Angeles, where the bulk of the cases are being heard, the court has instructed lawyers for the different parties to prepare 12 cases that fall into four broad categories.

They involve: relatives who were financially dependent on a passenger who died; next of kin who were not financially dependent; survivors who suffered serious injuries; and those who came out of the tragedy with minor injuries.

The first case that went ahead last month involved retired New York University biology professor Harald Linke, who suffered minor physical injuries. However, he made claims for emotional and psychological trauma suffered.

But before the hearing got under way fully, both parties came to a settlement for an undisclosed sum, which Dr Linke's lawyers said was 'probably a record for post-traumatic stress'.

The next case, involving a passenger who suffered serious injuries, will be that of Dr David Ralph, a professor at Pepperdine University's business school. He had burn and spine injuries and brain damage.

On why the cases were being separated into categories, lawyer Amolat Singh explained: 'The whole idea is to speed things up so that the lawsuits do not drag on for too long. Once the benchmarks are set, the key is to decide which case falls into which category.'

This also ensures fairness in compensation payouts, he said. 'What this means is that you won't see extreme differences in the compensation given to survivors and next of kin within the same category.'

Once the benchmarks are set, it would also be easier for lawyers to negotiate out-of-court settlements for the rest of the cases.

The lawsuits over compensation were filed by families of those who perished and survivors who did not accept SIA's offer of US$400,000 (S$693,600) for every passenger and crew member killed, and US$20,000 for the survivors.

In giving an update on the lawsuits, Mr Clements also took issue with earlier comments made by one of the victims' US lawyers about the airline's alleged stonewalling tactics in failing to hand over documents or making employees available for interviews.

In particular, he said one lawyer was reported in the media accusing SIA of withholding evidence like the cockpit recorder, when he knew very well that the device was with Taiwan's aviation safety investigators, who had themselves made known that they would not release it under any circumstances.

Mr Clements said: 'We did all we could to make sure that transcripts were made available.'

Would the 'record payout' in the US case and subsequent settlements or judgments have any impact on SIA's bottom line?

Mr Clements said there was no direct exposure as the cases are being handled by SIA's insurers.

However, since the Taipei crash and the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US, SIA's insurance premiums have shot up from $12 million a year to about $100 million now.

More details on SIA's financial performance will be made available at the end of the month, when its half-year results are announced.
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