United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Dr. Hamid Abbasi and MWBS Holdings, LLC, Plaintiffs,
Leading Edge Aviation Services, Inc., Defendant.
Chance Mark, Jr., Esq., Tyler P. Brimmer, Esq., and
Christopher R. Sall, Esq., Fafinski Mark & Johnson, P.A.,
Eden Prairie, MN, on behalf of Plaintiffs.
Timothy R. Schupp, Esq., Ryan O. Vettleson, Esq., and Daniel
P. Brees, Esq., Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp, LLP, on
behalf of Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MONTGOMERY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
18, 2017, the undersigned United States District Court Judge
heard oral argument on Defendant Leading Edge Aviation
Services, Inc.'s (“Leading Edge”) Motion for
Summary Judgment [Docket No. 48]. Plaintiffs Dr. Hamid Abbasi
(“Dr. Abbasi”) and MWBS Holdings, LLC
(“MWBS”) oppose the Motion. For the reasons set
forth below, Leading Edge's Motion is granted.
November 2012, Dr. Abbasi, through his company MWBS,
purchased a 2010 Cirrus SR22T aircraft (the
“Aircraft”). Sall Decl. [Docket No. 54] Ex. 13.
On March 29, 2013, while piloting the Aircraft on approach to
the Alexandria, Minnesota Municipal Airport, the Aircraft
experienced a malfunction of the right flap. Sall Decl. Ex.
10 (“Dr. Abbasi Dep.”) 168:23-169:4. After
unsuccessfully attempting to correct the problem through
piloting maneuvers, Dr. Abbasi deployed the Aircraft's
parachute system. Id. 178:24-179:1. The parachute
system allowed Dr. Abbasi, his wife, and two children to walk
away from the crash, but the Aircraft was a total loss.
Abbasi alleges that when Leading Edge performed maintenance
on the Aircraft's right flap between November 2010 and
August 2011, it failed to properly install the safety wire on
the mounting bolt on the right flap actuation fitting.
See Compl. [Docket No. 1-1]. This allegedly allowed
the flap rod end to disconnect from the flap actuation
fitting, causing the Aircraft's de-stabilization and
The Aircraft's History Prior to Being Purchased by Dr.
November 2010, the Aircraft that was then owned and piloted
by John Dutchak (“Dutchak”), struck a parked
truck while taxiing in Clearwater, Florida. Sall Decl. Ex. 1
(“Holloran Dep.”) 17:2-4; 41:18-25. Although the
Aircraft was only traveling 5 miles per hour, the crash
caused extensive damage to the Aircraft. Id. 42:1-6.
Isaiah Holloran (“Holloran”), a flight instructor
at the flight school Dutchak attended, determined the
Aircraft to be unairworthy as a result of the accident.
learning of the accident, Leading Edge's Director of
Maintenance, Steve Miller (“Miller”), drove to
Clearwater to inspect the Aircraft. Sall Decl. Ex. 2
(“Miller Dep.”) 82:9-14. During his initial
inspection, Miller observed damage to the Aircraft's wing
tip, the outboard TKS panel, flaps, and the wing root
fairing. Id. 75:7-22. Miller completed initial
repairs in Clearwater, and obtained a Special Flight Permit
to pilot the Aircraft to Leading Edge's facility in
Tampa, Florida for further maintenance. Id. 76:9-25;
Sall Decl. Ex. 3.
November 18, 2010, Leading Edge created a shop order for the
Aircraft. Sall Decl. Ex. 4. The shop order noted eight
discrepancies, including damage to the left wing tip, cracks
on the aft floor under the rear seats, and composite damage
in the fuselage skin under the left wing aft spar attach
Edge performed repair and maintenance on the Aircraft over
the following eight months. Id. Miller recorded the
work performed in the Aircraft's logbook. Miller Dep.
39:12-24; Sall Decl. Ex. 5. One logbook entry specifically
noted that “R&R both left and right flaps with new
flaps P/N 16891-001-05 & P/N 16891-002-05 as
required.” Sall Decl. Ex. 5. “R&R” is
an abbreviation for removed and replaced. Miller Dep.
remove and replace the right flap, Miller needed to remove
the safety wire on the bolt in the Aircraft's right flap
linkage. Id. 91:6-9. Although the same bolt could be
reused once the repairs were made, safety wires may only be
used once, so a new safety wire needed to be installed.
Id. 71:19-72:6. Miller testified that when he
examined the Aircraft after all the maintenance had been
completed, “clearly without question the safety wire
was present.” Id. 9:11-13.
signed off on the repairs in an August 3, 2011 logbook entry.
Sall Decl. Ex. 5. That same day, Paul Stern
(“Stern”), Leading Edge's shop foreman,
performed an annual inspection of the Aircraft. Id.
38:14-16; Sall Decl. Ex. 6; Schupp Aff. [Docket No. 51] Ex. 7
(collectively, “Stern Dep.”) 22:6-9. Stern's
standard practice prior to performing an inspection is to
review the logbook to see if any major repair work had
recently been completed. Stern Dep. 21:22-6. Stern testified
that by reviewing the logbook, he would have been aware that
the Aircraft recently underwent repair and maintenance work,
including maintenance on the Aircraft's right wing flap.
Id. 21:20-24; 22:25-23:4. Stern further testified
that his annual inspection would have included inspecting the
maintenance that was performed on the Aircraft's right
wing flap. Id. 22:25-23:7. Stern also testified
that, although he could not explicitly recall the condition
of the Aircraft's flap, he would have specifically looked
to ensure that the bolt on the right wing flap assembly was
safety wired. Id. 23:8-21. During the annual
inspection, Stern performed service bulletin SB 2X-27-16 R1,
a flap actuator modification, which required replacing a
piece of hardware due to the rod ends length changing.
Id. 31:12-32:24. This work did not require Stern to
manipulate any of the hardware on the wing flap itself, and
all the work was performed in the Aircraft's fuselage.
performing his inspection, Stern used a checklist that had a
specific check-off for the security of bolts. Id.
48:12-22. Stern testified that he understood the inspection
for the security of bolts included checking for the presence
of safety wire. Id. 48:23-49:1. Although Stern
recalls the Aircraft being in the shop, he was unable to
specifically remember inspecting this Aircraft. Id.
6:12-20. Relying on his past practice, Stern nevertheless
testified that his signature on the annual inspection means
that safety wire was in place. Id. 49:5-10.
August 3, 2011, the same day Miller logged his repairs and
Stern logged his annual inspection, Cirrus Design Corporation
Test Pilot Nathan Alm (“Alm”) performed a
post-maintenance test flight of the Aircraft. Sall Decl. Ex.
7; Schupp Aff. Ex. 2 (collectively, “Alm Dep.”)
23:4-10; 56:1-3; Sall Decl. Ex. 9. Prior to the test flight,
Alm reviewed the Aircraft's logbook so he could verify
during his pre-flight inspection that the repairs noted in
the logbook had been performed. Alm Dep. 29:6-22; 31:2-14.
Alm's review of the Aircraft prior to the test flight is
a more extensive pre-flight review, and includes an intensive
inspection of all areas noted in the maintenance entries as
having been repaired. Id. 31:15-19; 32:17-20. Alm
testified that “you're going to be down on your
hands and knees and - and verifying all the connections, the
safety wires and - and whatnot that are throughout.”
stated that he was responsible for making sure the Aircraft
was in an airworthy condition before the flight, and that if
safety wires were missing the Aircraft would not be in an
airworthy condition. Id. 56:7-15. Thus, to ensure
the Aircraft was airworthy, Alm would check for the presence
of safety wire on both the right and left flaps. Id.
56:16-22. Alm testified that he checks for safety wire on the
flap rod end during every pre-flight, and that he would not
have flown the Aircraft if the safety wires were missing.
Alm's test flight, Dutchak and Holloran traveled to
Leading Edge's facility to pick up the Aircraft. Holloran
Dep. 35:16-18. Upon arriving at Leading Edge, Dutchak and
Holloran performed an extensive pre-flight walk-through,
spending 30 minutes to an hour inspecting the Aircraft rather
than their usual ten minute walk-around. Id.
35:19-36:15. Neither Dutchak nor Holloran were licensed
mechanics certified to perform repairs, conduct annual
inspections, or certify an aircraft as airworthy, and they
did not use a checklist to complete their walk-through.
Id. 36:21-25; 40:24-41:10; Stern Dep. 50:23-51:3.
When asked about the safety wires on the flaps, Holloran
testified that he did not have a specific recollection of
seeing them, but that he would not have flown the Aircraft if
the safety wires were missing. Holloran Dep. 37:4-18.
Holloran also testified that it was his custom and practice
to ensure safety wires were in place prior to flying a Cirrus
airplane, and that it was something he checked before every
flight. Id. 37:18-38:2. Holloran stated that the
Aircraft flew like “brand new” after the repair.
10, 2012, the Aircraft underwent another annual inspection at
Leading Edge's facilities. Sall Decl. Ex. 10. Former
Leading Edge employee Jonathan Bennett
(“Bennett”) completed the inspection.
Id. Bennett was unable to specifically recall
whether he checked the Aircraft's flaps or saw that the
safety wire was installed as part of his inspection. Sall
Decl. Ex. 11; Schupp Aff. Ex. 8 (collectively, “Bennett
Dep.”) 63:4-9. Bennett, however, followed the
Aircraft's Maintenance Manual's checklist when
conducting his inspection. Id. 23:4-6. The checklist
provides a list of items that need to be completed as part of
the annual inspection. Id. 23:7-10. It was
Bennett's practice to follow the checklist and verify
each item on the list. Id. 23:11-13. Bennett
testified that at part of his annual inspection, he
“absolutely” would look for the presence of
safety wire on the bolts that connect various components of
the wing assembly. Id. 23:19-24:2. The checklist
itself demands that bolts are checked for “security,
” and that the visual inspection consists of checking
for “safety wiring” on bolts and nuts. Schupp
Aff. Ex. 9. Based upon his checklist and the annual
inspection signoff, Bennett testified without qualification
that safety wires were present on the Aircraft. Bennett Dep.
Dr. Abbasi Purchases the Aircraft
November 5, 2012, Dr. Abbasi purchased the Aircraft. Sall
Decl. Ex. 13. Prior to completing the purchase, Douglas
Duncan Aviation (“DDA”) performed a pre-purchase
examination of the Aircraft. Dr. Abbasi Dep. 21:4-14. No