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Most Cases in Alaska Airlines Crash Settled

The State

July 04, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Eighty-seven of 88 wrongful-death cases stemming from the 2000 crash of an Alaska Airlines plane off the Southern California coast have been settled for millions of dollars each, lawyers involved in the litigation said Thursday.

Lawyers said the settlements -- the 87th was reached Thursday -- were among the largest ever in an air disaster case, in part because of a government investigation focusing blame on the aircraft's carrier and maker, and because of the unusual nature of the crash itself.

Aviation lawyer Brian Panish of Los Angeles, one of the lead attorneys on the cases, said the settlements were for "anywhere from a couple million dollars up to $20 million." Financial terms of the out-of-court deals are sealed from public review.

Boeing, the plane's maker, and Alaska Airlines have conceded liability for the Jan. 31, 2000, crash of the MD-83 aircraft into the ocean off Port Hueneme in Ventura County. The one holdout case is being brought on behalf of passenger Joan Smith, 53, of Burlingame. Her case is awaiting trial in Los Angeles.

Flight 261 was headed from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco and Seattle when it crashed. All 88 aboard died.

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