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Lothrop v. North American Air Charter, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 26, 2015

ROBERT S. LOTHROP, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of ROBERT E. LOTHROP (Deceased), Plaintiffs,
v.
NORTH AMERICAN AIR CHARTER, INC., AIRBORNE MAINTENANCE, INC., AIR HAMPTONS, INC., and CONTINENTAL MOTORS, INC., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Robert S. Lothrop, Inidividually and as Administrator of the Estate of Robert E. Lothrop, Plaintiff: Anthony Tarricone, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kreindler & Kreindler, Boston, MA; Douglas A. Latto, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Baumeister & Samuels, P.C., New York, NY; Joseph P. Musacchio, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, Boston, MA.

For Kevin Earls, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of William J. Schley, Plaintiff: Douglas A. Latto, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Baumeister & Samuels, P.C., New York, NY; Anthony Tarricone, Kreindler & Kreindler, Boston, MA.

For North American Air Charter, Inc., Defendant: Steven E. Arnold, LEAD ATTORNEY, Stanger & Arnold, LLP, West Hartford, CT.

For Airborne Maintenance, Inc., Defendant: Gary W. Harvey, LEAD ATTORNEY, Margaret F. Curley, Morrison Mahoney LLP, Boston, MA.

For Air Hamptons, Inc., Defendant: Douglas H. Amster, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, LeClairRyan, Newark, NJ; Peter B. Van Deventer, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, LeClairRyan, A Professional Corporation, Newark, NJ; Andrew Neil Hartzell, LeClairRyan, P.C., Boston, MA.

For Continental Motors, Inc., Defendant: Thomas R. Murphy, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Thomas R. Murphy, LLC, Salem, MA.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

I. BACKGROUND

This action arises from a plane crash on December 5, 2010 in Massachusetts. The flight originated in New York and was returning to New York after a stop in New Hampshire when the engine lost power. The airplane landing gear hit electrical transmission wires, causing the airplane to flip during its forced landing. Two of the passengers, Robert E. Lothrop and William Schley, died as a result of the accident. Another passenger and the pilot survived.

A. Procedural Background

Robert S. Lothrop, Administrator of the Lothrop estate, and Kevin Earls, Administrator

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of the Schley estate, brought actions against North American Air Charter, Inc. (" North American" ), Airborne Maintenance, Inc. (" Airborne" ), and Air Hamptons, Inc. (" Air Hamptons" ) in both New York and Massachusetts state court. They claimed wrongful death of the decedents and loss of consortium due to negligence and breach of warranty and also brought a claim for product liability against Continental Motors, Inc. (" Continental Motors" ).

North American removed the Massachusetts action to federal court on the basis of federal diversity jurisdiction. However, plaintiff Earls and several defendants were citizens of New York. North American argued that Earls' claims were fraudulently joined and therefore that Earls' citizenship should be disregarded for jurisdictional purposes. North American made two arguments regarding fraudulent joinder: that the lawyer who signed the complaint on behalf of Earls was not admitted to practice in Massachusetts and that Earls had not paid the proper filing fees. I held that North American failed to show that Earls was fraudulently joined and I remanded the case to state court for resolution of North American's state law objections to the inclusion of Earls in this action.

While the case was before me prior to remand, North American took steps to press its claim of lack of personal jurisdiction. North American filed an answer asserting the affirmative defense of lack of personal jurisdiction. North American's memorandum in opposition to Lothrop's motion to remand also asserted that Massachusetts courts lack personal jurisdiction over North American. In addition, the parties filed a report of a planning meeting in which North American proposed a discovery plan that included limited jurisdictional discovery before any merits discovery and motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Once back in state court after remand, North American filed a motion titled " Motion to Strike," claiming that the Earls case was never properly commenced. During a hearing on the motion to strike in Suffolk County Superior Court, counsel for Earls explained to Judge Locke that the plaintiffs had filed in New York concurrently with the action in Massachusetts because of North American's contention that Massachusetts courts lack personal jurisdiction over North American. The motion to strike was denied by Judge Locke.

Ultimately, North American and Earls settled and Earls entered a stipulation of dismissal of his claims in state court. North American then removed this action again to federal court. North American now presses for dismissal on the ground that there is no personal jurisdiction over it in Massachusetts. Lothrop continues to maintain that Massachusetts courts do, in fact, have personal jurisdiction over North American.

Meanwhile, Lothrop also moved to dismiss his claims against Continental Motors, Airborne Maintenance, and Air Hamptons, on the basis that Lothrop and these three settling defendants have settled in good faith and without fraud, collusion, or dishonesty. Lothrop presented problems including questionable liability, potential jurisdictional defenses, and perceived relative culpability, as reasons for the settlements with the three defendants,. After reviewing the submissions and without objection from any party, I determined, following a hearing in this matter, that the settlements with the settling defendants were in good faith in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 231B, § 4. I thereupon allowed defendants to be dismissed from this action. With the case in

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that posture, I turn now to resolve the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pressed by the remaining defendant, North American.

II. ANALYSIS


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