SAN FRANCISCO (January 29, 2010) – Morrison & Foerster secured a long-awaited victory for Honeywell International Inc. in a case that arose from the crash of a United States Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“SOAR”) helicopter in Afghanistan in February 2007. Judge Claudia Wilken of the U.S. District Court for Northern California granted Honeywell’s motion for summary judgment based on the Government Contractor Defense.
Twenty-two U.S. military personnel were aboard the SOAR MH-47E Chinook helicopter when it crashed in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan upon returning from a night mission to capture or kill a “High Value Target” of Al Qaeda. Eight passengers were killed and the rest sustained injuries in the crash when the helicopter went down after one of its engines failed in severe icing conditions. The survivors and heirs of those killed alleged that the Honeywell-manufactured engines used for the Chinook helicopters were defective, and the plaintiffs sought monetary damages for wrongful death, bodily injuries, and several product liability issues.
In November 2009 Honeywell filed for summary judgment based on the Government Contractor Defense, a defense first recognized by the United States Supreme Court in Boyle v. United Technologies, which extended governmental immunity to contractors of military equipment if built according to government specifications. Oral arguments were presented on December 10, 2009. In addition to granting Honeywell’s motion, Judge Wilken granted motions for summary judgment for other defendants, The Boeing Company and Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems.
Morrison & Foerster’s winning team was led by partners James Huston, Erin Bosman, and William O’Connor, and included associates Joanna Herman, Ellen Adler, and Jennifer Allison.