Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Back in 2009 a plane crashed into the home of some people in Clarence, an outer ring suburb around here. Everyone on the plane died. Two people in the house were injured, and another was killed. The lawsuits on behalf of the people on the plane have all been settled, but the people who were in the house aren't subject to Warsaw Convention damages limitations  and their case is being tried right now. The lawyer for the plaintiffs is the daughter of Paul Beltz, who was a legend. I practiced with Anne back in my Kelner days. She is damn good. I also practiced with the guy who is leading the defense team, back in my Saperston days. He is also damn good-- kind of a wizard in a way. I'm not aware that he's tried anything at all in the last twenty years, but he probably has, and is, in any event, one of the best I've ever seen.

So here's the thing: this is a damages trial. There isn't anything to talk about when an airplane crashes into your house except damages, and the heart of the the damages case for the plaintiff is whether there was conscious pain and suffering on the part of the guy who died. It comes down to expert proof, and... You know what they say about how to win a capital case? They say Never Let It Come To Trial. This looks to me like a high stakes bet that will nudge the damages needle up for subsequent cases tried in the area, and I would love to have heard the discussion about why an Erie County jury
should be deciding this. Come to think of it, I'd be interested to know why the case is being tried here in Erie County at all, where there are memorials to the people who died all over the place, and where the accident was and remains an open scar in the minds of the local population. And why state court? All of the other cases were venued in federal district court. None of this just happened-- Neil fusses over punctuation. All of these decisions were carefully made. In the end the decision to try a case is an economic decision, but it has been my experience that when you let other people make economic decisions with your money the outcome is seldom a happy one.

| Comments:
Barely tangential, but speaking of the "open scar" part: when WIVB runs a story about this case they use the same opening animation every time: a very shaky plane struggling to stay aloft in a blizzard. I didn't know anybody on the plane or the ground but it makes me queasy when I see it.

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