When Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into the Wielinski family home in Clarence Center, NY, on February 12, 2009, 61-year-old chemist Douglas Wielinski was killed along with all 49 people on the plane. More than 40 lawsuits were filed against the three airlines involved, Colgan Air, which owned and operated the plane; its parent, Pinnacle Airlines; and Continental Airlines, which contracted with Colgan.
The suit filed by Wielinski family is the only Flight 3407 crash death lawsuit that was not settled.
On the day of opening statements in the trial, WBEN sought out nationally recognized Buffalo criminal defense attorney Paul Cambria for his commentary.
A different situation than those on the plane
Asked if he was surprised that the Wielinski family had not settled their suit, Mr. Cambria responded, “Not really. Understand that our office had two of these cases, so we were intimately involved in the process. You would imagine that of all these cases, at least one of them would go to trial, and this particular case is unique because this is a situation where we have the gentleman, who was in his home, was deceased, and his daughter and his wife escaped. There are a lot of different factors involved here because of the house situation: questions of pain and suffering and so on, and they distinguish it from the other cases.”
Why is this case alone going to trial?
Responding to a question about whether going to trial indicates that the airlines deny responsibility, Mr. Cambria said, “My guess is that this is more driven by the plaintiffs.” He continued, “I’m sure that the airlines themselves would have liked to have settled this like they settled with all the others, so my guess is that the plaintiffs were pushing this and not satisfied with whatever the offer was on settlement.”
The likely outcome
Mr. Cambria was then asked how he thought the Flight 3407 crash death lawsuit would end.
“The question will be whether or not the gentleman died instantly, or whether or not that was pain and suffering,” he said. “That would enhance what the damages would be. . . when you evaluate these cases, you look at the age of the individual, the earning capacity, the dependents, pain and suffering – all these things go into an adequate result. A lot of those factors are here, and they are unique from the people who were on the airplane.”
Mr. Cambria noted, “I do not believe that liability is going to be an issue. I mean, I think that there has been enough testimony, and there has been enough establishment if you will of the lack of training and negligence on the part of the individuals [associated with the airlines] who are involved. I think it is really going to come down to a matter of what the damages are.”
The interview concluded with Mr. Cambria’s comment that “it’s a very tragic situation. A number of families did settle and were satisfied that they did, but now it’s time to have a trial.”
Recognized as one of the nation's preeminent attorneys, Mr. Cambria focuses his practice in the areas of criminal trials, criminal appeals, constitutional law, First Amendment law, zoning and land use, antitrust, and professional licensing defense.