Continental wants to consolidate suits over December runway fire

Steve Korris Apr. 23, 2009, 8:44am

Continental Flight 1404 after skidding off a Denver runway and catching on fire Dec. 20, 2008.

AUSTIN – Continental Airlines of Houston, facing lawsuits over a flight that caught fire on a Denver runway on Dec. 20, wants the Texas Judicial Panel on Multi District Litigation to take charge of all the cases, plus new ones as lawyers file them.

On April 1 Continental asked the panel to consolidate claims of 13 passengers in six Harris County suits pending before six judges. Continental told the panel it expects more suits.

Plaintiff attorney James Furman of Austin objected to consolidation on April 17.

"All cases arising out of the crash of Continental Flight 1404 a pending in a single county," he wrote. "Therefore, multi district litigation does not exist."

The flight would have carried 114 persons from Denver to Houston. The fire claimed no lives but sent 37 to hospitals.

On Jan. 12, Jason Gibson and James Canady of Houston sued Continental on behalf of two Texas passengers. They added three Texas passengers on Jan. 20.

On Feb. 4, Frank Branson and Quentin Brogdon of Dallas sued Continental and the pilots on behalf of a passenger.

Gibson and Canady added a Texas passenger and two from Maryland on Feb. 13.

On March 5, Furman filed suit on behalf of a passenger and three suits for a mother of three passengers.

"Continental anticipates that more lawsuits will be filed, most likely in Texas and Colorado, based on the number of notices it has received," John Martin of Dallas wrote to the multi district panel.

He wrote that four Harris County plaintiffs filed separate suits in Colorado against aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
Consolidation would allow coordination with the court in Denver, Martin wrote.

Along with consolidation Martin requested a stay of all trial court proceedings.

He wrote that a lawyer indicated he would file a motion compelling Continental to violate federal regulations and produce information regulators haven't released.

Furman responded that any findings of the National Transportation Safety Board were likely inadmissible.

He wrote that "many of the NTSB's findings are not trustworthy as a result of the airline and aircraft manufacturers' involvement in the NTSB investigation."

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