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Havayollari v. AAR Aircraft Services, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

September 15, 2016

TAILWIND HAVAYOLLARI; MUHSIN AKGUN; ORHAN PEHLIVAN; and GIZEM ESGIN, Plaintiffs,
v.
AAR AIRCRAFT SERVICES, INC., and AAR SERVICES, INC., Defendants-Appellees Tailwind Havayollari, Plaintiff-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County, No. 12-L-130; the Hon. Dorothy French Mallen, Judge, presiding.

         Judgment Affirmed.

          Boodell & Domanskis, LLC, of Chicago (Michael L. Brooks, of counsel), and Schultz & Associates, LLC, of Arvada, Colorado (Jason Schultz and Robert Schultz, of counsel), for appellant.

          Adler, Murphy & McQuillen LLP, of Chicago (Steven L. Boldt, Charles F. Ingrassia, Mark S. Susina, and Michael G. McQuillen, of counsel), for appellees.

          Panel JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Zenoff and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          BURKE, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff Tailwind Havayollari, a Turkish civil aviation company, along with its crew members Muhsin Akgun, Orhan Pehlivan, and Gizem Esgin, sued defendants, AAR Aircraft Services, Inc. and AAR Services, Inc. (collectively, AAR), which provide aircraft maintenance, alleging that AAR was liable for damages plaintiff suffered in an accident (the incident) that occurred on June 14, 2009, during a landing attempt by a leased aircraft (the Aircraft) that plaintiff was operating. After and as a result of the incident, plaintiff entered into an agreement (the Global Agreement) with International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC) and two companies affiliated with ILFC, Castle 2003-1BlLC and Castle 2003-2A LLC (the Castle Entities), which modified the terms of five aircraft lease agreements including the lease covering the Aircraft. As part of the consideration, plaintiff also entered into a release agreement (the Release) that expressly released the Castle Entities and ILFC, as well as "all *** other entities not specifically identified" in the Release, from any and all liability related to the incident. AAR filed a motion for summary judgment based on the Release. Plaintiff argued that AAR was not within the scope of the Release and, alternatively, that the Release was ambiguous. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of AAR, finding that the intention of the parties to the Release was to eliminate any litigation arising out of the incident, that AAR is unambiguously included as a released party under the phrase "all *** other entities not specifically identified, " and that, therefore, the Release bars plaintiff's action against AAR. Plaintiff appeals the trial court's judgment. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Plaintiff operates airplane charter flights. On June 14, 2009, while operated by plaintiff, the Aircraft suffered a control failure during a landing attempt at Diyarbakir Airport in Diyarbakir, Turkey.

         ¶ 4 A post-incident inspection revealed a small metal roller embedded between the left power-control-unit input crank and the manifold stops, which are part of the Aircraft's elevator-control system. The Aircraft's prior lessee, Alaska Airlines, had hired AAR to perform maintenance services on the Aircraft in January 2009 at its facility in Oklahoma City, as part of Alaska Airlines' lease agreement with ILFC for redelivery of the Aircraft. AAR completed its work on the Aircraft "and carried out [the] ILFC check in accordance with the Alaska maintenance program." Plaintiff leased the Aircraft from ILFC in February 2009 after AAR had just completed the Aircraft's inspection. Plaintiff alleges that the incident and plaintiff's resulting economic damages were due to the negligence of AAR in performing maintenance on the Aircraft in January 2009, five months prior to the incident. Plaintiff seeks in excess of $4 million in damages.

         ¶ 5 About seven months after the incident, in January 2010, plaintiff, the Castle Entities, and ILFC renegotiated the terms of five aircraft leases due to, inter alia, changing market conditions. AAR was not a party to the renegotiation. The renegotiation resulted in the Global Agreement. In partial consideration for the renegotiation, plaintiff, the Castle Entities, and ILFC entered into the Release, pursuant to which plaintiff released all claims "arising out of or in any way related to or resulting from the accident/incident which occurred on June 14, 2009, " against ILFC, the Castle Entities, and "all other persons, firms, companies, corporations and other entities not specifically identified in this Waiver and Release Agreement."

         ¶ 6 The Release specifically states, in part:

"For and in consideration of the consideration and mutual covenants set forth in (i) [the Global Agreement] dated January 25, 2010[, ] entered into between [ILFC and the Castle Entities] and [plaintiff] *** and (ii) this Full Waiver and Release Agreement *** [plaintiff] for itself and its affiliates, and all of its predecessors, successors, parents and subsidiaries, and all of its officers, directors, partners, employees, stock holders, agents, attorneys, representatives, administrators, insurers, subrogors, subrogees and all of the heirs, successors and assigns of any of them (collectively the 'Releasor'), to the fullest extent allowed by law, expressly intends to release, and by execution of this Waiver and Release Agreement does hereby release and forever discharge [ILFC and the Castle Entities], Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (acting in its capacity as security trustee pursuant to the security trust agreement and as trustee pursuant to the indenture agreement), Phoenix American Financial Services, and their affiliates, and all of their predecessors, successors, parent and subsidiaries, and all of their officers, directors, employees, agents, attorneys, insurers and representatives, and all of the heirs, successors and assigns of any of them, and all other persons, firms, companies, corporations and other entities not specifically identified in this Waiver and Release Agreement, without reservation (collectively the 'Released Parties') of and from any and all liability, claims, damages, expenses, demands or causes of action which the Releasor have, claim to have or may have, including but not limited to physical injuries, mental injuries, wrongful death and loss or destruction of personal property, loss of income, loss of future income, damage to reputation which the Releasor may have sustained or may hereafter sustain as a consequence or consequences flowing from, arising out of or in any way related to or resulting from the accident/incident which occurred on June 14, 2009[, ] involving the [Aircraft]." (Emphases added.)

         ¶ 7 The four named entities that signed the Release were the same four entities named in the Global Agreement. As shown, the "Releasor" is defined as plaintiff "and its affiliates, and all of its predecessors, successors, parents and subsidiaries, and all of its officers, directors, partners, employees, stock holders, agents, attorneys, representatives, administrators, ...


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