Four movie production companies seeking to be released from any potential awards or judgments against them in a body of airplane crash litigation have had their case dismissed by a Georgia federal judge.
The production companies, Cross Creek Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Quadrant Pictures and Vendian Entertainment, are embroiled in lawsuits blaming them for a fatal airplane crash on the set of the Tom Cruise movie “American Made.”
Judge Michael Brown of Georgia’s Northern District, where the production companies wanted to shift all liability to the maintenance company that maintained the doomed airplane, said the plaintiffs should wait until the lawsuits against them are litigated before seeking to be indemnified.
Judge Brown indicated it is premature for the companies to seek indemnity at this point since, in fact, they could be found not liable for damages in the cases against them.
“… No one knows what the outcome of that case will be,” Judge Brown wrote in dismissing the case. “No one can say if it is likely, unlikely, probable or improbable that plaintiffs will be liable.”
On Sept. 11, 2015, a twin-engine Smith Aerostar 600 was flying from Santa Fe de Antiogia, Colombia, to Medellin when it crashed in the Andes Mountains during a storm. Pilot Carlos Berl, and Alan Purwin, whose company, Heliblack, owned the airplane, were killed. Jimmy Garland, the CEO and partner of S&S Aviation, survived but was rendered paraplegic.
The families of Mr. Berl and Mr. Purwin filed separate wrongful death lawsuits in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the four production companies.
The production companies filed a lawsuit against S&S in U.S. District Court in Northern Georgia last year, alleging the maintenance company failed to properly inspect and maintain the aircraft or provide adequate instruction to the pilot.
The companies also sought “total indemnity” for any awards, judgments, or legal fees against them in the California case.
According to the Daily Report, S&S moved to have those claims tossed, arguing those claims were not ready to be tried because “the outcome of this case depends on the outcome of at least one underlying state court action pending in California, which addresses the same issues as those in this case and which has been pending and hotly litigated.”
A similar lawsuit the production companies filed against Heliblack in Gwinnett County, Georgia, was dismissed in June for the same reasons. Judge Brown noted that ruling in his Sept. 5 opinion.
The movie American Made, released in Sept. 2017, depicts the real-life story of Barry Seal, a TWA pilot who started running drugs and guns for the Colombian Medellin Cartel before being recruited by the CIA and DEA in the 1980s in an effort to capture cocaine cartel leader Pablo Escobar.