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Escobar v. Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 5, 2019

VIOLETA ESCOBAR, also known as VIOLETA ESCOBAR CLINE, Individually and as Personal Representative for the ESTATE OF NATHAN CLINE, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
NEVADA HELICOPTER LEASING LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT NEVADA HELICOPTER LEASING LLC'S MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL (ECF NO. 380)

          HELEN GILLMOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In November 2011, a helicopter piloted by the Plaintiff's husband crashed on the island of Molokai. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC, the owner of the helicopter, asserting negligence and strict liability claims.

         In July 2017, the Federal District Court granted Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC's Motion for Summary Judgment, holding that Plaintiff's state law negligence and strict liability claims were preempted by federal law. The Court ruled that there were no genuine issues of material fact concerning Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC's actual possession or control of the helicopter.

         Plaintiff appealed and the case was remanded. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that there were issues of fact as to whether Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC had actual possession or control of the helicopter.

         Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC (“Nevada Leasing”) filed a Motion to Bifurcate Trial. Nevada Leasing seeks to have a trial first on the factual questions identified by the Appellate Court to determine whether Nevada Leasing may be held liable pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 44112(b). Nevada Leasing argues that the control issue identified by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is separate and distinct from the claims of negligence and strict liability. Defendant argues bifurcation would expedite proceedings, promote judicial economy, and would not prejudice the Plaintiff.

         Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC's Motion to Bifurcate Trial (ECF No. 380) is GRANTED.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On July 21, 2016, the Court issued an ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT NEVADA HELICOPTER LEASING LLC'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT. (ECF No. 172).

         On March 3, 2017, the Court issued a Judgment consistent with the Court's July 21, 2016 Order and a Stipulation for Dismissal agreed to by the remaining parties in the case. (ECF No. 353).

         On March 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (ECF No. 348).

         On February 11, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an Memorandum remanding proceedings to this Court. (ECF No. 358).

         On March 5, 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the Mandate. (ECF No. 359).

         On May 13, 2019, Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC filed a MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL. (ECF No. 380).

         On May 16, 2019, the Court held a Status Conference. (ECF No. 383).

         On June 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT NEVADA HELICOPTER LEASING LLC'S MOTION TO BIFURCATE TRIAL. (ECF No. 387).

         On July 10, 2019, Defendant filed its REPLY. (ECF No. 389).

         On October 4, 2019, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's Motion to Bifurcate. (ECF No. 395).

         BACKGROUND

         On November 10, 2011, a 2010 Eurocopter France model EC130 B4 helicopter, which was piloted by Nathan Cline, crashed on the island of Molokai. Cline and the four passengers onboard the helicopter died as a result of the crash.

         Plaintiff Violeta Escobar, the widow of Nathan Cline, filed a complaint against Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC, and other Defendants, on behalf of herself and as personal representative for the Estate of Nathan Cline.

         Plaintiff's complaint asserts state law claims for negligence and strict products liability against Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC, the owner of the helicopter.

         Defendant Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC owned the helicopter at issue and leased it to Maui Helicopter Consultants, doing ...


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