Families of the victims killed in a tragic helicopter crash near Las Vegas, Nevada have filed two lawsuits against the company that operated the sightseeing craft. The crash occurred the afternoon of December 7, 2011 in the Lake Mead Recreational Area near the Hoover Dam, about twelve miles east of Las Vegas. The helicopter, a Eurocopter AS350, was owned and operated by Sundance Helicopters, a Las Vegas-based tour company. Sundance conducts sightseeing tours of the area surrounding Las Vegas. Five people lost their lives in the crash, two married couples and the helicopter pilot, Landon Nield.
The specific cause of the crash remains unknown. Radar tracking data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reportedly showed that the helicopter entered an “erratic and abnormal flight pattern” just before it crashed. The pilot did not make an emergency call. The NTSB has determined that the helicopter did not lose power before crashing. The agency is conducting its own investigation into the crash, but it may not have a final report or a determination of what caused the crash for some time.
The first lawsuit came within days, filed on December 13, 2011 in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The plaintiffs are family members of Lovish Bhanot and Anupama Bhola, newlyweds from New Delhi, India who died in the crash while on their honeymoon. The suit alleges negligence against Sundance and demands unspecified monetary damages.
A second lawsuit followed on December 29, filed by four children of Delwin and Tamara Chapman of Utica, Kansas, the other victims of the crash. The Chapmans were in Las Vegas celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. This lawsuit also claims unspecified damages against Sundance. The same attorney is representing both sets of plaintiffs. He told the Associated Press that he will do joint discovery in the cases but wants to conduct separate trials.
The lawsuits, according to news reports, allege negligence and make claims for wrongful death. Wrongful death is a civil legal claim seeking to hold a defendant liable for the death of a person, usually as part of a negligence claim. Unlike criminal legal matters, which seek punishment like fines or imprisonment, a wrongful death claim only seeks monetary damages.
Negligence requires proof by the plaintiff of four elements: that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty, the breach caused injury, and the plaintiff has measurable financial damages. In a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff or plaintiffs are family members or other representatives of the decedent. They would argue that the defendant owed a duty to the decedents to safely operate their equipment, that they failed to do so, that this resulted in the deaths of their loved ones, and that this caused them damage. The damages claimed in a wrongful death suit relate to medical and funeral expenses, loss of the decedent’s income and support, and occasionally damages for loss of companionship (known sometimes as loss of consortium.)
The Washington, DC injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured due to the negligence of others to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
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NTSB Issues Findings on Deadly 2010 Gas Pipeline Explosion, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2011
Family of Shooting Victim Sues Gunman for Wrongful Death, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, November 11, 2011
DC Area Teen’s Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Four Loko Manufacturer, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 30, 2011