Delta Dismissed from Fatal 2006 Kentucky Plane Crash Lawsuits

July 11, 2008

A federal judge dismissed Delta Air Lines Inc. from more than 19 pending lawsuits involving a plane crash in Kentucky that killed 49 people two years ago.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester said in a 13-page opinion that no Delta employee could be held liable for the crash of Comair Flight 5191. Comair is a subsidiary of Delta, but Delta argued that each has separate management and policies, and employs its own pilots.

“We’re pleased with the court’s decision,” Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said July 9.

The plane crashed shortly after taking off from the wrong runway at Blue Grass Airport on Aug. 27, 2006, killing 49 of 50 people on board. Paige Winters, 16, and her horse riding coach, Thomas Fahey, 26, both of Leawood, Kan., were among those killed in the crash.

Forester said in his ruling that Comair carries out its own flight operations, while Delta did not own or operate the Comair plane and had no legal control over the pilots of the crashed jet.

“Delta has no right to fire or otherwise discipline Comair pilots for violating Comair’s polices or procedures and/or aviation regulations,” the judge wrote.

“In short, there is no allegation that any Delta employee failed to exercise reasonable care in the performance of his/her duty in any manner in respect to Flight No. 5191,” Forester wrote.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer David Royse told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the dismissal of Delta from the lawsuits won’t affect an Aug. 4 trial on damages.

“Out of an abundance of caution, some plaintiffs had simply named Delta, Comair’s parent company, as an additional defendant,” Royse told the newspaper.

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said the ruling will have no bearing on her company’s case.

Messages left late Tuesday by The Associated Press at Royse’s office weren’t immediately returned.

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