HKM Attorneys Secure Defense Verdict in Wrongful Death Aviation Trial

HKM trial attorneys Dan Haws, John Paul (J.P.) Gatto and Ryan Malone, along with many other valuable members of their trial team, recently secured a defense verdict in a wrongful death aviation products liability suit following a three week jury trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Hennepin County). 

The case stemmed from a December 9, 2011 crash of a twin-engine aircraft in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that killed the pilot and all three passengers.  The pilot's estate, through its experts, claimed that the pilot was forced to shut down one of his engines as a result of a fire during take-off.  Once the engine was shut down, the experts claimed that the pilot was unable to "feather" the propeller of the disabled engine - a process by which the blades of the propeller are turned parallel to the airstream to reduce drag - and that the inability to feather the propeller created significant aerodynamic drag that prevented the pilot from controlling the airplane and resulted in the crash.  The estate's experts specifically alleged that a defect in the design and manufacture of a discrete component of the propellers' feathering mechanism was the cause of the crash, and that the defendant failed to provide adequate warnings or instructions on how to respond to the emergency situation. 

The defendant airplane and propeller manufacturer disputed all aspects of the estate's claim, argued that there was no defect in the design or manufacture of the feathering mechanism, that the warnings issued were proper, and that the accident was caused by pilot error.  After a three week trial, the jury returned a defense verdict finding no defect or failure to warn after only two hours of deliberations.

Dan HawsDan Haws focuses his practice on the areas of Aviation LitigationProduct Liability, Commercial Litigation, Financial Services and Business Litigation, Insurance Related Litigation, and Transportation Litigation. He has successfully tried more than 50 jury trials to verdict throughout the Midwest and has handled numerous cases on appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, serving as lead trial counsel on most of the appeals. Dan was elected to the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA. He has an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating in the distinguished legal directory, Martindale-Hubbell®* and has been selected among America's Top 100 Attorneys®, Lifetime Achievement. He has been selected for inclusion in Minnesota Super Lawyers®, 2003-2017 Editions and was also named a "top personal injury lawyer" in defense by Minnesota Law & Politics. Dan is admitted to practice in all state, federal and appellate courts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and the U.S. District Court – District of North Dakota.

John Paul GattoJohn Paul (J.P.) Gatto has significant trial and appellate experience and focuses his practice on the areas of Aviation LitigationProduct Liability Defense, Commercial LitigationConstruction Litigation, Environmental Litigation, Insurance Related Litigation, and Transportation Litigation. J.P. has tried numerous large loss complex cases to verdict in various state and federal courts.  He has represented a wide variety of clients from large corporations, including aviation manufacturers, equipment manufacturers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, to small businesses and individuals. J.P. has handled a wide variety of claims including personal injury, warranty disputes, contract claims, claims for lost profit or business income, claims for violations of trade secrets, issues of insurance coverage, and other general litigation matters up to and through trial and any subsequent appeals. He has been selected for inclusion in Minnesota Rising Stars®, 2014-2017 Editions. JP is licensed to practice in the state courts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Minnesota Federal courts and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ryan MaloneRyan Malone is an associate in HKM's Civil Litigation Group, focusing his practice primarily on Product Liability Defense. Ryan has played critical roles in numerous large loss personal injury and property damage claims ranging from aviation accidents to commercial and environmental claims relating to alleged nuclear radiation exposure.  Ryan is licensed to practice in Minnesota state and federal courts and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association.  He received his J.D. from William & Mary School of Law and his B.A., cum laude, from Boston College, where he majored in political science and was a member of the school's Fulton Debating Society.

*AV® is a certification mark of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell® certification procedures, standards and policies.