Friday, February 29, 2008

Nagoya High Court and 1994 China Airlines Crash

"NAGOYA--The high court here Thursday dismissed an appeal by two siblings who lost their parents in the fatal crash of a China Airlines Airbus A300-600R at Nagoya Airport in 1994 and had sought a ruling on the aircraft manufacturer's liability.

"They wanted the court to acknowledge that not only the airline but also France-based aircraft maker Airbus SAS was responsible for the disaster that killed 264 people.

"By upholding a December 2003 Nagoya District Court ruling, the court ordered the Taiwanese carrier to pay 98 million yen in compensation to the two plaintiffs, or 2 million yen more than the figure awarded in the earlier court decision.

"Presiding Judge Koji Okahisa blamed the pilot for maneuvering the aircraft "outrageously and recklessly."

"His maneuvers, to force the nose down in conflict with the autopilot system, put the airplane in abnormal "out of trim" conditions, causing it to stall and crash, the judge said.

"But Okahisa said the aircraft maker should not be held responsible on grounds it had revised its operation manual and took other measures to prevent danger.

""(The maker) cannot be said to be responsible for ensuring safety even when such reckless acts take place," he said, dismissing the suit's product liability claims.

"The plaintiffs, Kazuyo Hakamata, 51, and her brother Hiroshi Aozawa, 49, from Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, had sought 142 million yen in damages from the airline and the manufacturer.

"It was the first appeals trial ruling on the accident in a series of lawsuits filed by more than 500 plaintiffs, who sought more than 30 billion yen in compensation, the largest ever in Japan.

"The ruling was also the first high court decision on whether an airline and a manufacturer should be jointly held responsible.

"The rest of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits either accepted the 2003 district court ruling or reached an out-of-court settlement with China Airlines, thus dropping their cases against Airbus SAS.

"Only the sister and brother had continued to question Airbus' responsibility.

"In 1996, the transport ministry's Aircraft and Railway Accidents Investigation Commission decided the April 26, 1994, crash resulted from a combination of 12 factors.

"These included improper maneuvering and characteristics peculiar to the aircraft.

"For example the aircraft's autopilot does not automatically turn off even if the pilot takes control manually."

By Asahi Shimbun (2/29/2008), Link to article (last visited 2/29/2008)

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