Five families of Flight 3407 crash victims have now reached settlements with the air carriers involved in the February 2009 deadly crash, while other families are moving forward in court with their lawsuits. A total of 39 cases have been filed so far against three defendants: Continental Airlines, Colgan Air, and Bombardier.
Among the questions that must be answered before the trial can start is whether or not the cockpit voice recording will be played in court. Lawyers for the victims' families argue that there are some big differences between reading a transcript and actually hearing the conversation. "How were the pilots acting in the cockpit? You can't really tell that by pure words. You need the sound," says Hugh Russ of the Hodgson Russ law firm, "Also, what other sounds might there be there. Might we hear the passengers?"
The recording captures the final moments of Flight 3407 before it crashed in Clarence Center killing all 49 people on board and one person on the ground. U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny says he'll decide by the week of October 25th whether he'll allow the recording to be played in court.
Meantime, the families of five victims -- John Fiore, George Abu Karam, Maddy Loftus, John G. Roberts III, and Darren Tolsma -- have already reach settlements for undisclosed amounts. "In this case as in every case there are people who are anxious to settle early on and there are those who are going to hang in there until it's all over with," says James Kreindler, Chairman of the plaintiff's committee.
For those moving forward in court there is still a long road ahead. "We've started the deposition process. I know it's anticipated that we might do 50-60 depositions," says Hugh Russ. That's all part of the pre-trial discovery process that'll involve intense scrutiny of airline safety practices.
"If you fly on a regional plane your safety is much less than if you fly on a national carrier, and I think we're going to find out that everyone knew about it and tolerated it," says Russ. The trial is not expected to begin until March 2012.
Lawyers for the air carriers did not comment after Wednesday's court proceedings.