Wrongful death lawsuits filed against Canadian flight school, manufacturers and FAA in 2016 plane crash

By Nicholas Malfitano | Nov 21, 2018

HARRISBURG – A combined pair of multimillion-dollar lawsuits have been filed in Pennsylvania federal court revolving around a fatal plane crash in October 2016, charging a Canadian flight school, a North Carolina airplane component manufacturer and the Federal Aviation Administration with negligence in failing to prevent the accident.

In one lawsuit, Lubica Mijac of Ontario, Canada (Estate Trustee of Corey Michael Mijac, Christopher Jeffries, Samantha Berry and Benjamin Caleb Jeffries) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 15 versus St. Catharines Flying Club of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario Canada and Aero Accessories, LLC (successor to Aero Accessories, Inc.) of Gibsonville, N.C.

The lawsuit is connected to a fatal airplane crash more than two years ago, involving a flight from Richmond, Va., to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada and an aircraft owned and operated by the Flying Club.

“This action includes claims for negligence, strict liability, defective design, defective manufacture, misrepresentation, failure to warn, failure to inspect, failure to correct deficiencies, breach of warranties, negligent supervision and wrongful death, and arises out of an airplane crash on Oct. 16, 2016, resulting in the death of two passengers and the pilot comprising all persons on board,” Mijac’s suit states.

The litigation points to the failure of a device called the Tempest Vacuum Pump installed on the aircraft which failed, and allegedly served as the proximate cause of the crash.

“Flying Club is a flying school located in Ontario, Canada. It offers training for pilots for initial licensing, instructor qualification, instrument rating, and commercial licensing. Initial pilot training consists of both flight and ground training. Some of that training takes place in the United States,” according to the litigation.

“Flying Club’s initial flight training is called the AB Initio program. Decedents Mijac and Jeffries were students in the program. On Oct. 12, 2016, defendant, Flying Club sent five of its aircraft, along with instructors and students to the United States for several days of flying. They were returning to St. Catharines on Oct. 16, 2016, the day of the crash.”

Along with instructor Rifat Tawfig, the decedents flew in a Piper PA-28-161 plane. All three were supervised by senior instructors Ryan Lefebvre and Scott Motean, who recently trained Tawfig in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) flying. Though the pair allegedly had concerns about Tawfig’s level of ability, they did not stop the flight.

“On the final leg of the return trip to St. Catharines/Niagara District Airport, the IMC conditions foreseen and forecasted occurred. Tawfig flew into the IMC conditions, subsequently lost control of his aircraft and crashed it into the ground. The crash claimed the lives of decedents Mijac and Jeffries,” the litigation says.

“Defendants Aero Accessories manufactured parts and components on the accident aircraft that failed during the flight contributing to the aircraft to crash into the ground. The vacuum pump designed, overhauled, manufactured, and provided by defendants Aero Accessories failed in flight. As a result of the failure of the vacuum pump, a number of the instruments in the mishap aircraft were inoperative or providing false information which contributed to the crash.”  

For counts of wrongful death, survival, negligence, negligent supervision, strict liability, misrepresentation/breach of warranties, the plaintiff is seeking all damages, including punitive and/or exemplary damages and interest recoverable for the defendants’ conduct, including attorneys’ fees and other such relief allowed by law as the Court and jury deem just.

Mijac is represented by Edward J. Ciarimboli and Corey S. Suda of Fellerman & Ciarimboli in Kingston, plus James R. Brauchle and Mary Schiavo of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

The Flying Club is represented by John E. Salmon and Zachary J. Ballard of Salmon Ricchezza Singer & Turchi, in Philadelphia. The Aero defendants have not yet obtained legal counsel, according to Court records.

Filed in the same court on the very same day, Oct. 15, the second litigation was brought by Tawfig’s family against the Flying Club, Transport Canada, Inc. of Concord, Ontario, Canada and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington, D.C.

That lawsuit was brought by Salwa Ibrahim Norry, Yousif Tawfig, Ayat Tawfig, Israa Tawfig and Adriana Tawfig, all of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. It claims the defendants were collectively negligent in deeming the plane operational and permitting it to fly. It seeks total damages in the amount of $5 million.

Tawfig’s family is represented by Muhammad Maqsood Alam of Alam Law Office in Ontario, Canada.

The defendants in the latter lawsuit do not yet have listed legal counsel.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania cases 4:18-cv-01988 & 4:18-cv-01993

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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