Woman's estate files wrongful death lawsuit in fatal 2016 N.J. airplane crash

By Nicholas Malfitano | Oct 9, 2018


PHILADELPHIA – The estate of a woman killed in an airplane crash at a Southern New Jersey airport two years ago is pursuing damages against several parties connected to the accident in a wrongful death lawsuit.

David R. Forker (Executor of the Estate of decedent Karen L. Lowe) of Telford filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 11 versus Air-Mods Flight Training Center Corporation and Air-Mods & Repair, Inc. of Trenton, N.J., Sky Manor Airport Partners, LLC of Pittstown, N.J., the Estate of Gerald Scott Budge of Robbinsville, N.J. and Ilissa Skinner of Philadelphia.

“On Sept. 25, 2016, Karen Lowe suffered catastrophic injuries and death when an airplane she occupied as a passenger impacted terrain. The accident airplane, registered as N526AM, was owned by defendant Skinner. N526AM, a Mooney M20J, was a high performance aircraft with a retractable gear,” the suit says.

“Upon information and belief, defendant Skinner owned N5626AM and leased it to defendant Air-Mods Flight, who then rented the aircraft for profit. On Sept. 25, 2016, defendant Air-Mods Flight rented N526AM to Gerald Scott Budge. Budge flew N526AM to Pennridge Airport in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where Ms. Lowe boarded his plane as a passenger. Unbeknownst to Ms. Lowe, Budge was not sufficiently qualified to fly N526AM”

After Lowe was on board, Budge flew her to Sky Manor Airport. Upon arrival, Budge was approximately 20 knots too fast on his approach and “bounced” the airplane on landing, then tried to make a second attempt, the suit says.

“Again, Budge was too fast and bounced it again too far down the runway a second time before instituting a second go-around. Upon information and belief, the airplane’s propeller struck the runway during the bounce. However, during his climb in the second go-around, Budge entered a steep climb in order to avoid excessively high trees at the end of the Sky Manor runway and, upon information and belief, stalled the airplane causing it to roll left, pitch nose down, and descend until it impacted the terrain. Ms. Lowe suffered immeasurable fear and suffering during the violent crash, and perished as a result of her injuries,” according to the lawsuit.

Through preliminary objections filed on Sept. 27, counsel for the Air-Mods defendants argued the plaintiff had filed a nearly-identical action in the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Camden County Court, that the case had no jurisdiction in Philadelphia and the venue was improper.

“Moving defendants, which are New Jersey corporations, do not have the minimum contacts necessary to support the Court’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction, whether in the form of general or specific jurisdiction, in an action arising from events that occurred in New Jersey. Without the requisite nexus between moving defendants and Pennsylvania, the Court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over moving defendants would violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 5322,” the preliminary objections reads.

“Moreover, venue is improper pursuant to Pa.R.Civ.P. 1006 and 2179. Accordingly, moving defendants’ preliminary objections should be sustained pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1028(a)(1) and plaintiff’s claims against moving defendants should be dismissed with prejudice.”

For counts of negligence, survival and wrongful death against all defendants, the plaintiff is seeking all damages available under Pennsylvania law, plus interest, costs, and damages for pre-judgment delay, in addition to a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by Lane R. Jubb Jr. of The Beasley Firm, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Zachary J. Ballard and John E. Salmon of Salmon Ricchezza Singer & Turchi, plus J. Bruce McKissock of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, also all in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180700007

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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