Aviation Team Prevails on Motion for Summary Judgment

Aviation Team Prevails on Motion for Summary Judgment


September 5, 2019 – Clark Partington’s aviation litigators, Michael Schofield, Jim Green, and Matt Couch, recently prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in a claim arising from an airplane crash in the Gulf of Mexico.  The matter was heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.  This victory comes on behalf of client, PAE, an international defense and government services contractor.

The crash occurred on November 6, 2014, when a U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jet departed from Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, Florida, to join up with an F-4 fighter jet—which was playing the part of a drone—for a continuation training sortie. The only person on board the F-16 was the pilot, a 58-year-old retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel employed as a civilian by the Department of Defense. Tragically, the aircraft crashed into the Gulf of Mexico toward the end of the sortie and the pilot was killed.

In its analysis and 28-page order, the court applied the Boyle/Hudgens’  test which requires the court to consider the following: (1) whether the United States approved reasonably precise maintenance procedures; (2) whether PAE followed those procedures; and (3) whether PAE had knowledge superior to the United States’ about a danger and failed to warn the United States.  The court found based on the undisputed facts that the United States had approved reasonable precise maintenance procedures,that PAE followed those procedures, and that PAE had no knowledge superior to the United States of any danger that required a warning.

Four months ago, in a rare move, the court ordered Clark Partington Attorneys to attend oral argument on the motion for summary judgment.  Michael Schofield argued the motion and the court took the matter under advisement.  The court recently issued a 28-page order granting summary judgement in full on behalf of PAE.

Michael Schofield is one of just 44 attorneys who are board certified in aviation law by the Florida Bar, and he is the only board certified aviation attorney in the Florida Panhandle.  Jim Green has tried both jury and bench trials to verdict in favor of his clients, focusing on aviation, personal injury, defamation, and trust and probate litigation.  Matt Couch is a litigator with a focus on transportation, regulatory compliance, and employment law matters at both the trial and appellate levels.

About Clark Partington:

Clark Partington is the largest business focused firm in the Florida panhandle with offices in Pensacola, Destin, Grayton Beach & Tallahassee.  The firm also maintains a presence in South Alabama with an Orange Beach office.  Since 1976 Clark Partington has grown to over forty lawyers and has served the people and businesses of Florida through an innovative and collaborative approach to practicing law.  Our lawyers are consistently recognized for their service to the profession and excellence in the courtroom.  More information about the firm’s practice, its attorneys, and recognitions may be found at www.clarkpartington.com.