The families of five crew members who died aboard a cargo jet that crashed while transporting military vehicles in Afghanistan will need to take to federal court their cases against the employer of the men who perished, after the cargo airline for which they worked asked a federal judge to transfer the cases from Cook County courts.
On May 29, Florida-based National Air Cargo filed documents in federal court in Chicago, serving notice of the company’s intent to remove the cases from Cook County Circuit Court.
The cargo transport airline said the removal is necessary and appropriate because the cases center on allegations surrounding National Air Cargo’s transport of “military cargo pursuant to a contract between National Air Cargo Group Inc. and the U.S. Department of Defense.”
“The details of the operation were controlled by federal officers, the terms of a defense contract and applicable federal regulations,” National Air Cargo said in its removal notice. Under federal law, such claims need to be tried in federal court, the airline said.
The removal serves as the latest step in litigation dating back to November 2013.
At that time, surviving family members and estate administrators of four Michigan men – Jamie Brokaw, Rinku Summan, Jeremy P. Lipka and Gary P. Stockdale – and Timothy M. Garrett, of Kentucky, sued the airline, Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing, air cargo transport equipment manufacturer Telair International, and others over the crash that claimed the men’s lives in Afghanistan in April 2013.
According to published reports and court documents, the five men were part of a seven-member crew aboard a Boeing 747 which was transporting a load of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) personnel transport vehicles from Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan to Dubai on April 29, 2013.
However, published reports indicate the craft, shortly after takeoff, appeared to list and stall before crashing near the base, killing all aboard.
Reports indicate Lipka, a pilot, was at the controls at the time of the crash. Brokaw, also a pilot, was serving as navigator; Summan, a pilot, served as first officer; and Stockdale and Garrett served as mechanics.
Also killed in the crash were pilot Brad Hasler and loadmaster Michael Sheets, both of Michigan. County court records do not show any complaints filed by the families of either of those men against National Air Cargo, Boeing and the other defendants named in these cases.
The complaints were amended earlier this spring, following the release of a National Transportation Safety Board report indicating the crash may have been the result of improperly secured MRAP vehicles aboard the aircraft.
According to the report, the crew had never before transported such heavy equipment, and at some point a decision was made to allow the craft to take off, despite concerns the vehicles may not have been properly secured.
In earlier versions of the complaint, the plaintiffs had alleged Boeing’s craft was “defectively designed” and was not suitable for the task of “the unsafe and dangerous practice of transporting multiple high density, rolling vehicles.”
And they now alleged multiple training and equipment failures as a result of National Air Cargo’s alleged negligence resulted in the crash, as they allege a vehicle or other cargo broke “from its holds (and_ penetrated the aft pressure bulkhead,” causing the aircraft to crash.
The cases, each of which contain identical allegations, specifically list counts of product liability, negligence and wrongful death against Boeing and Telair, and negligence and wrongful death against National Air Cargo.
The plaintiffs in the action are seeking unspecified damages against each of the defendants.
The plaintiffs are represented in the action by attorneys Donald J. Nolan and Thomas P. Routh, of the Nolan Law Group, of Chicago.