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September 14, 2004

Press Contacts:
Mike Kilgore, Travis County Probate Court Administrator, (512) 854-9559.
Guy Herman, Travis County Probate Court Judge, (512) 854-9258.
Jodi Bart, UT Law Communications, (512) 471-7330.

Complex Product Liability Jury Trial to Start Sept. 20 at UT-Austin

CANCELLATION NOTICE, SEPT. 16:
Judge Herman's office today stated that a resolution has been reached on the Products Liability Trial that was to take place in the Eidman Courtroom from September 20th through October 1st. The trial has been cancelled.

WHERE: Eidman Courtroom, Connally Center, UT Law
WHEN: Trial begins 8 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 20, 2004 (Trial will last approx. two weeks.)
WHO: Courtroom proceedings are open to the public

AUSTIN, Texas — A jury trial is scheduled to start on Monday, Sept. 20, at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law to determine the cause of a private airplane crash at Houston Hobby Airport in 2000.

Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman, a 1977 UT Law graduate, will preside over the trial that is expected to last for two weeks.

There will be no cameras allowed in the courtroom. The public – including Law School students, staff and faculty – is invited to attend the trial.

The Travis County Probate Court provided the following agreed statement for 74306-A Lacy Johnson, et al. and Ruben V. Fernandez, Jr., et al. vs. The Estate of Kent J. Chatagnier, et al. Pam Gillis, et al., Deanna Ray Chatagnier, et al.

The trial involves a complex product liability suit stemming from a private airplane crash at Houston Hobby Airport. Five occupants and the pilot were killed when the Beechcraft B-55 Baron crashed upon take-off on May 12, 2000. The plaintiffs in this case are the families of the passengers and pilot of the plane. They claim that a defect in the flight control locking system allowed the plane to take-off while the controls were still locked. The defendant, Raytheon Aircraft Services, Inc., sold the airplane in the 1970s and performed some maintenance on the airplane in the 1990s. The defendant alleges that the limited work that it performed on the airplane had nothing to do with the control locking system, that the aircraft's original control locking system was not defective, and that the crash was caused solely by the pilot's negligence.

The cause of the accident will be the primary issue at trial. To aid the jury in understanding the facts of this case, more than a dozen experts will testify about a wide range of issues including aircraft engineering, piloting conduct, aviation safety, and design and maintenance issues relating to airplanes. Additionally, a mockup of an airplane cockpit will be in the courtroom as a visual aid. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys:
• Jon C. Kettles (The Kettles Law Firm, P.C., Dallas), represents the families of passengers Roger and Ruben Fernandez
• John L. Grayson (Grayson & Hovenkamp, P.L.L.C., Houston), represents the family of pilot Kent Chatagnier
• Charles O. Grigson (Law Offices of Charles O. Grigson, Austin), attorney ad litem for two of Roger Fernandez’s children
• Michael S. Miller (Michael Miller, P.C., San Antonio), represents three of Roger Fernandez’s children

Defendant’s Attorneys:
• Richard H. Caldwell (Andrews & Kurth, L.L.P., Houston), represents Raytheon Aircraft Services, Inc.
• Greg Waller (Andrews & Kurth, L.L.P., Houston), represents Raytheon Aircraft Services, Inc.

UT-Austin’s Eidman Courtroom is a state-of-the-art working courtroom where several public trials are held each year.

Related Link:
King Foundation Jury Trial: http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2004/052804_trial.html