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Papapetrou v. Boeing Co.

February 25, 2008

MAMAS PAPAPETROU AND CHRYSTALA PAPAPETROU-IOANNOUS, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ESTATE OF PETER VII, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA AND ALL AFRICA A/K/A PETROS PAPAPETROU, DECEASED, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., AND GOODRICH PUMP & ENGINE CONTROL SYSTEMS, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George M. Marovich United States District Judge

Judge George M. Marovich

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs--the next of kin of four individuals killed in a helicopter crash--filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County Illinois a tort action against defendants the Boeing Company ("Boeing"), Honeywell International, Inc. ("Honeywell") and Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems, Inc. ("Goodrich"). Boeing removed the case to this Court, and plaintiffs have filed a motion to remand the proceedings to state court. Also before the Court is Boeing's motion to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies plaintiffs' motion to remand and grants defendant Boeing's motion to transfer venue.

I. Background

On September 11, 2004, a helicopter owned by the Hellenic Army was en route to Mt. Athos, Greece when it crashed into the Aegean Sea, killing all those on board. The crash's victims included Peter VII, Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa (then-Pope of the Greek Orthodox Church); Georgis Papapetrou; Archdeacon Nectarios a/k/a Vasilios Kontogiorgos; and Chrysostomos Archbishop and Metropolitan of Carthage a/k/a Chrysostomos Papadopoulos.

The helicopter itself was a Boeing CH-47SD, also called a "Super D Chinook," whose serial number was M4286 (the "Helicopter"). Boeing designed, manufactured, assembled and sold the Helicopter. It contained engines designed and manufactured by Honeywell and engine control systems designed and manufactured by Goodrich.

In the complaint, plaintiffs assert two claims (one labeled "Product Liability/Unairworthiness" and one labeled "Negligence") against each defendant. Among other things, plaintiffs allege that the Helicopter was defective in that Boeing incorporated a digital engine control unit that a) contained faulty circuitry, b) lacked sufficient protection for wiring, c) had incorrect fault codes, d) improperly controlled the flow of fuel, and e) lacked redundancy for power loss. Plaintiffs also allege that the rotors and rotor blade system were designed such that they were likely to strike the Helicopter's fuselage. Plaintiffs complain that the Helicopter's hydraulic system lacked necessary redundancies, prevented a pilot from manually overriding certain maneuvers and contained contaminated fluid. Plaintiffs also allege that the automatic flight controls and electrical system were faulty. Plaintiffs add that Boeing was negligent in designing and manufacturing the Helicopter. Finally, plaintiffs assert that they bring the action "pursuant to general maritime law, and/or the U.S. Death on the High Seas Act, and/or the laws of Greece, and/or other applicable laws."

On September 10, 2007, plaintiffs filed this suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County. One day after filing suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, plaintiffs filed a nearly-identical action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.*fn1 Boeing removed this case from the Circuit Court of Cook County to this Court on October 17, 2007 and on October 22, 2007 moved to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On November 14, 2007, plaintiffs moved to remand this case back to the Circuit Court of Cook County.

While the parties were briefing the motions pending before this Court, they were also briefing a motion in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On November 30, 2007, after at least two defendants had already filed answers to the complaint (i.e., after the point at which a plaintiff may dismiss a claim without leave of court), plaintiffs filed a motion with the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to dismiss voluntarily their claims in that forum. Judge O'Neill of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered an order deferring decision on plaintiff's motion to dismiss until after this Court rules on the motions pending before it.

In support of its motion for transfer and in support of removal, Boeing filed declarations describing the Helicopter's development. According to those declarations, all of Boeing's activities with respect to the design, manufacture, assembly and testing of the Helicopter took place at Boeing's CH-47D production facility in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. Evidence regarding the coordination between the U.S. Government and Boeing as to the design and manufacture of the Helicopter is maintained at the U.S. Government's Defense Contract Management Agency in Pennsylvania. Boeing's Illinois headquarters was not involved with the development of the CH-47D.

According to Boeing's declarations, the CH-47D is the U.S. Army's primary multi-mission, medium-lift transport helicopter. Boeing produced a pre-cursor fleet of CH-47 helicopters for the U.S. Army in the 1960's. In 1980, the U.S. Army issued to Boeing the first production contract for modernization of the earlier CH-47's to the D model. Later, the U.S. Army issued to Boeing a contract for the production of a newly-built D model aircraft. Since 1980, Boeing has produced some 500 CH-47D helicopters for the U.S. Army. Boeing designed and manufactured the CH-47D helicopters for the U.S. Army in accordance with U.S. Government specifications.

In October 1999, the U.S. Army issued to Boeing a contract for the procurement of seven International CH-47D Long Range helicopters that would be transferred by the U.S. Army to the Hellenic Army. The contract set out detailed specifications for every aspect--from the rotor blades to the fasteners--of the helicopters. Among other things, the contract stated that the helicopters for the Hellenic Army would have the "same rotor blades, transmissions, external cargo hooks, and modularized hydraulic, electrical, and advanced flight control systems as the U.S. Army CH-47D." The Seven helicopters Boeing produced pursuant to the October 1999 contract included the Helicopter at issue in this case. Boeing delivered the Helicopter to the U.S. Army in Pennsylvania on August 31, 2001. The U.S. Army subsequently sold the Helicopter to the Hellenic Army.

II. Discussion

A. Plaintiffs' Motion ...


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