Move to block air lawsuit rejected
A WRONGFUL death trial over the 2005 Lockhart River air crash is still likely to go ahead in the American state of Missouri after a second legal challenge to halt proceedings has failed.
Justice Ann Lyons of the Brisbane Supreme Court this month rejected an application made by Mackellar Mining Equipment Pty Ltd and Dramatic Investments Pty Ltd to stay the decision of August 23.
Cairns Supreme Court last month refused an “anti-suit injunction” by owner of the plane, Partnership 818 and lessee Transair’s managing director and chief pilot, Leslie Wright, who inspected the aircraft while it was stored in Missouri.
Sixty-one relatives of the 15 people who died on May 7 when the Fairchild Metro 23 aircraft crashed into a mountain in the Iron Range National Park began legal action in Missouri against Partnership 818 and Mr Wright in May 2008.
The new application would have halted the relatives from pursing their suit.
“The applicants sought a number of declarations and orders which would have permanently restrained the first to 61st respondents from essentially taking any step to pursue proceedings which are currently listed for a three-week trial in Missouri in July 2019,” Justice Lyons wrote. “The applicants argue that if the stay is refused, the respondents would apply for an anti-suit injunction in Missouri.”
She ruled that the respondents had successfully argued that there would be “substantial disadvantage to them” should the stay be granted.
“I am not satisfied that the applicants have established that they would suffer any actual disadvantage if the stay is not granted,” Justice Lyons wrote. She made particular mention of an affidavit by Patrick Nunan, which outlined the “enormous amount of work” required to obtain updated statements from victims’ families living in Bamaga.
“Given the significant disadvantage which Mr Nunan has outlined, I am satisfied that a sufficient basis has been shown for the refusal of the stay,” Justice Lyons stated.
In addition to the tyranny of distance and the restrictions of movement imposed by the seasons, Mr Nunan emphasised the language barriers the legal team faced.
“What makes the preparation for the Missouri trial even more difficult as far as the Bamaga plaintiffs are concerned, is that a great majority of them do not have English as their first language,” Mr Nunan stated in his affidavit.
“For some English is their third language.”