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A John Williams successfully defends £7m air crash claim

A John Williams successfully defends £7m air crash claim.

Mr Justice Coulson has handed down judgment in the case of Cassley v (1) GMP Securities Europe LLP & (2) Sundance Resources Limited [2015] EWHC 722 (QB), dismissing a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 arising out of a plane crash in the People’s Republic of Congo in June 2010.

In June 2010 Sundance Resources Limited, an Australian iron ore mining company, chartered a CASA 212 aeroplane from a Congolese carrier, Aero Service, to carry its board of directors and others including  Mr James Cassley (a mining consultant employed by a London finance house, GMP Securities Europe LLP), from Yaounde in Cameroon to a mining site at Nabeba in Congo. All on board were tragically killed in a “controlled flight into terrain” accident caused by pilot error. Having recovered some compensation from Aero-Service, Mr Cassley’s dependants (represented by Stewarts Law LLP) commenced proceedings in the High Court alleging that both GMP (as Mr Cassley’s employer) and Sundance (as the charterer) were negligent in failing to make proper inquiries about Aero-Service and in allowing Mr Cassley to undertake the flight. Specifically, it was alleged that both Defendants were negligent in failing to discover that all Congolese carriers had been blacklisted by the EU on the grounds of poor regulatory oversight and in failing to undertake an audit of Aero Service which, it was alleged, would have revealed safety deficiencies and led to the cancellation of the flight.

Mr Justice Coulson found that GMP was in breach of the duty of care it owed the Deceased as his employer but ruled that this breach of duty was not causative of the death. As regards the claim against Sundance (represented by A John Williams on instructions from Norton Rose Fulbright LLP), the Judge found that, notwithstanding a written Waiver of Liability agreement, Sundance had assumed responsibility for the safety of the Deceased and owed him a duty of care at common law, but neither breach of duty nor causation had been proved.

The judgment revisits the case law on: (1) the scope and content of the employer’s duty of care in respect of foreign travel risks, including the recent case of Dusek v Stormharbour Securities LLP [2015] EWHC 37 (QB) and(2) the case law on the duty owed to others when selecting an independent contractor.

The Judgment is available here.

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