Court nixes bid to move helicopter crash lawsuit to U.S.

Sue Bailey
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A Cougar Helicopter’s Sikorsky S-92A is shown in a file photo. — Telegram file photo

Helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has lost another round in its bid to have a $27-million lawsuit over a deadly crash heard in Connecticut, where the company is based.

The appeal division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has upheld a previous ruling that the lawsuit should be heard in St. John’s.

A Sikorsky S-92A chopper ferrying offshore oil workers crashed about 55 kilometres off Newfoundland on March 12, 2009, killing 17 of 18 people on board.

Cougar Helicopters and eight insurance companies led by Lloyd’s of London are suing Sikorsky for alleged negligence and misrepresentation.

The claims have not been proven in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

In a decision released Monday, Newfoundland’s highest appeal court ruled that Justice Richard LeBlanc was correct that the province’s Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the case.

“The applications judge did not err in concluding ... that the requisite real and substantial connection of Cougar’s claim to this jurisdiction is satisfied,” says the three-judge appeal panel in a ruling dated last Thursday.

It also affirmed that a local hearing “is a convenient forum for adjudication of the claim.”

A spokesman for Sikorsky could not be reached to confirm whether the company will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the case.

The statement of claim seeks almost $27 million in damages. It accuses Sikorsky of using a “flawed” analysis to claim its chopper could run without oil in the main gearbox for 30 minutes.

The pilots of Cougar Flight 491 reported a loss of oil pressure in the chopper’s main gearbox about 11 minutes before plunging into the North Atlantic.

Two weeks after the disaster, the Transportation Safety Board said two of three titanium studs that secure the oil filter bowl assembly to the helicopter’s main gearbox sheared off mid-flight.

The board concluded in a report last February that the resulting massive loss of oil pressure was one of a “complex web” of 16 factors cited in the catastrophe.

It also blamed unclear safety and training procedures.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, Sikorsky Aircraft, Cougar Flight 491 Transportation Safety Board

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, U.S., Connecticut London

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