Legal wrangling

Moira Baird
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Cougar drops Sikorsky subsidiary from $27-million lawsuit

A Cougar Sikorsky S-92 helicopter taxis on the runway with offshore workers onboard after landing at the company’s headquarters at St. John’s International Airport in this file photo. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Cougar Helicopters can drop a helicopter parts company from its $27-million lawsuit against Sikorsky Aircraft, a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court judge ruled Tuesday.

Cougar launched the lawsuit in June against both Sikorsky and its subsidiary Helicopter Services Inc. (HSI).

Last month, Cougar served notice it was discontinuing the civil action against HSI.

Sikorsky argued this could not happen without the permission of the court. It filed an application to that effect, and last week both sides appeared in court to argue the issue.

The lawsuit stems from the March 12, 2009 helicopter crash off Newfoundland that killed 17 of 18 people on board.

The S-92 helicopter was manufactured by Sikorsky.

On Tuesday, Justice David Orsborn ruled Cougar did not “require either leave of the court or the consent of the parties before filing the notice of discontinuance as against HSI on Sept. 21.”

He cited the rules of the Supreme Court that say a proceeding can be discontinued or withdrawn at any time before a trial begins by filing notice.

Only when the trial begins is the permission of the court or the consent of the defendants required to discontinue a civil action, according to court rules.

Orsborn said he will file the reasons for his decision “in due course.”

He also awarded costs to Cougar arising from Sikorsky’s application.

All of this legal wrangling is taking place against the backdrop of a larger issue — which court has jurisdiction to hear the civil suit.

Cougar argues the trial should be held in Newfoundland, while U.S.-based Sikorsky argues the proper venue is a Connecticut courtroom.

The jurisdiction issue also came up during last week’s hearing. Since jurisdiction had yet to be decided, Sikorsky argued the civil action against HSI could not be dropped without the permission of the court or the companies named in the lawsuit.

A hearing is set for Nov. 22-23 in St. John’s to decide jurisdiction.

In its June 24 statement of claim, Cougar said Sikorsky misrepresented how long its S-92 helicopter could continue flying after losing oil from the main gearbox. The main gearbox helps power the helicopter’s rotor drive.

Statements of claim contain allegations that have not been proven in court.

Organizations: Helicopter Services, Supreme Court, Sikorsky Aircraft

Geographic location: Newfoundland, U.S., Connecticut

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