Lawyers explain lawsuit potential to passengers in Air Canada crash landing

HALIFAX — Lawyers for one of the class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of people involved in a plane crash at Halifax’s airport in March held a meeting for passengers Wednesday to explain why they may wish to sign on to the legal case.

Ray Wagner, lead partner in his Halifax-based firm, and Joe Fiorante of Vancouver-based Camp, Fiorante, Matthews and Mogerman, talked to about 40 people who attended an information session about how the action will seek damages for alleged physical and psychological injuries suffered by passengers.

Their statement of claim in April was the second to be filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court since Air Canada Flight 624 hit the ground short of the runway on March 29.

It says Air Canada did not adequately train the flight crew on the procedures for the Airbus A320 and that the crew chose not to abort the landing when they knew or ought to have known that a safe touchdown was impaired or prevented by the weather conditions at the time.

The claims have not been proven in court, and no statements of defence have been filed.

The aircraft was flying from Toronto when it hit an antenna array, slammed into the ground about 335 metres short of the runway and skidded for another 335 metres before stopping.

All 133 passengers and five crew on board survived, although about two dozen people were sent to hospital.

The suit says lead plaintiffs Kathleen Carroll-Byrne, Asher Hodara and Malanga Georges Liboy are seeking damages alleging pain and suffering, loss of past and future income and past and future costs of care, among other claims.

Caroll-Byrne said in an interview after the meeting that she has decided to be a lead plaintiff because she wants to help avoid future accidents.

The U.S. citizen, who was flying from Seattle to Halifax when the accident occurred, said she is “an emotional mess” since the incident, has difficulty sleeping and frequently finds she is crying.

Caroll-Byrne, 55, said the experience of seeing the passengers again was helpful because they were able to share their experiences and discuss the value of a lawsuit.

“Tonight was the first time we reconnected and saw each other, so it was definitely emotional,” she said.

“There were passengers who were tearful and we had to get tissues for them. I know it was very emotional for a lot of us.”

Lianne Clark, 54, who was also a passenger, said she attended to find out more about her legal rights.

“Unfortunately today you have to do these kinds of things for change to happen. You have to hold people accountable for the change to happen,” she said.

The computer consultant said she has quit a job she commuted to in Ottawa and has taken a pay cut to stay in Halifax because she is less comfortable flying since the accident.

The suit names Air Canada, Airbus SAS, NAV Canada, the Halifax International Airport Authority, the Attorney General of Canada and an unnamed captain and first officer as defendants.

Air Canada and Nav Canada said they could not comment as the matter is before the courts.

The France-based Airbus and the airport authority did not return requests for comment.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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