SAN FRANCISCO (August 2, 2011) – Morrison & Foerster today secured a long-awaited win for Honeywell International Inc. in a case that arose from the crash of a United States Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment (“SOAR”) helicopter in Afghanistan in February 2007. Writing for the unanimous panel, Ninth Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace affirmed the District Court’s ruling based on the Government Contract Defense, a defense first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Boyle v. United Technologies, which extended governmental immunity to contractors of military equipment if built according to government specifications.
“Today’s decision is significant, as it clarifies current Ninth Circuit precedent and serves as an important guide for future government contractor defense cases in the Ninth Circuit,” said James Huston, Morrison & Foerster partner and lead counsel for Honeywell.
Twenty-two U.S. military personnel were aboard the SOAR MH-47E Chinook helicopter when it crashed in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan upon returning from a night mission to capture or kill a “High Value Target” of Al Qaeda. Eight passengers were killed and the rest sustained injuries in the crash when the helicopter went down after one of its engines failed in severe icing conditions. The survivors and heirs of those killed alleged that the Honeywell-manufactured engines used for the Chinook helicopters were defective, and the plaintiffs sought monetary damages for wrongful death, bodily injuries, and several product liability issues.
In November 2009 Honeywell filed for summary judgment, and in January 2010, the U.S. District Court for Northern California granted Honeywell’s motion. Motions for summary judgment were also granted for other defendants, The Boeing Company and Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems.
In addition to Mr. Huston, Morrison & Foerster’s team included partners Erin Bosman and William O’Connor, as well as associates Joanna Herman, Greg Reilly, and Joanna Simon.