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Renton airline firm sued over floatplane crash
Passengers say they weren't briefed on safety
By VANESSA HO
P-I REPORTER

Three men filed a lawsuit Thursday against a Renton-based airline business after a floatplane they chartered from the company crashed in Canadian waters last year.

The men – Robert Nordberg of Seattle, James Merritt of Bellevue and Merritt's son Joshua – had chartered a De Havilland Beaver plane in July 2007 from Sound Flight. The Merritts had been going to Canada for a fishing trip. Nordberg, whose teenage son had been with him, was on his way to go sailing. A fifth passenger was also on board.

As the plane neared its destination in Barkley Sound west of Vancouver Island, it banked hard. Its left wing hit the water and was sheared off, and the plane cartwheeled, said the men's attorney, Alisa Brodkowitz.

"It was scary. It was very scary," said Nordberg, a 53-year-old sales manager, whose son was 13 at the time.

The plane filled with shockingly cold water and began to sink. The pilot and passengers scrambled out and swam to nearby rocks, where a Coast Guard cutter picked them up. They suffered cuts and bruises but no life-threatening physical injuries.

Brodkowitz said the company blamed the crash on " a gust of wind." But she accused the pilot, Kemp Hiatt, of making an unsafe landing in a small, rocky bay instead of wider waters nearby.

She also alleged that Hiatt, who is named in the complaint, failed to provide a legally required safety briefing to his passengers before the flight.

"We were told where the life jackets were, and that was it," said Merritt, a 61-year-old home-builder. After the plane crashed, Nordberg had struggled to unfasten his seat belt, and Merritt was unable to dislodge a life jacket from a bulkhead. None of the plaintiffs were wearing flotation devices when they swam to safety.

On Thursday, Hiatt, who is the director of operations for Sound Flight, said the National Transportation Safety Board and its Canadian counterpart had cleared him of pilot error. But because of the lawsuit, he declined to discuss details.

Brodkowitz said Canadian investigators listed the cause of the crash as "unknown." An NTSB report on the accident made no mention of cause at all.

Both men say they still suffer from emotional trauma from the accident, and Nordberg says he has neck pain. "I still have sleepless nights," he said.

P-I reporter Vanessa Ho can be reached at 206-448-8003 or .

$400,000.00 Verdict

Perkins v. AMR

A woman's life was changed forever during her bus ride to work. Suddenly an American Medical Response vehicle, on an non-emergent call, veered into the HOV lane, forcing the metro bus off the road. The bus, which was traveling at 65 miles per hour, crashed into a ditch. Ms. Perkins was thrown from her seat and injured her back. The verdict provides for future medical treatment for our client. The verdict also proves that the system works, our client got her day in court and with it the justice that she deserves.

Alisa Brodkowitz Recognized As Rising Star*

December 1, 2007 - Press Release
Alisa Brodkowitz Recognized As Rising Star In Washington Law And Politics Recognition as a "Rising Star*" is a the result of peer evaluation and a review of professional accomplishments. This designation is given to only 2.5 percent of Washington's up-and-coming lawyers (i.e. lawyers under the age of 40). Alisa Brodkowitz was recognized as a Rising Star in the Aviation practice group.

* Super Lawyers is a registered trademark of Key Professional Media, Inc.

Aviation Newsletter Wins Outstanding Section Newsletter of the Year

A three-judge panel from the American Association of Justice Publications Committee selected the Winter 2007 issue of the Aviation Law Section Newsletter as the 2007 Outstanding Section Newsletter of the Year. The winter newsletter addressed Preemption and included articles on the subjects of field preemption, the Federal Aviation Act and its legislative history, federal question jurisdiction and removal and it also included a review of aviation preemption case law. Newsletter Editor Alisa Brodkowitz and Section Chair Gary Robb were honored at the 2007 Annual Convention in Chicago with a formal awards presentation.