Seven-Figure Helicopter Verdict on Zero-Offer Case
In Derek LeBlanc v. PHI, Inc., Cause No. 12-2-1545, In the 24th Judicial District Court of Calhoun County, Texas, our client, Derek LeBlanc, the father of two young children, won a seven-figure jury verdict for damages suffered in an aviation accident. The pretrial offer was zero. Our client also received additional financial compensation through a confidential pretrial settlement from another defendant.
LeBlanc, from Lafayette, Louisiana, was only 32-years-old at the time of his helicopter incident. LeBlanc worked as a fire and safety inspector on offshore oil and gas platforms, inspecting the platforms for various energy companies to ensure regulatory compliance. His transportation to and from the platforms often occurred via helicopter. On one such trip, a helicopter operated by Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (a company with a net worth of over $400M) had a tail rotor failure. This issue necessitated an emergency water landing. Air hoses should inflate floats along the skids of a helicopter in the event of an emergency water landing; however, in this case, the air hoses that inflate the floats were improperly installed, and two of the six floats did not inflate properly. The lack of inflation caused the helicopter to flip over, leaving LeBlanc stranded in the water, holding on to the skids for his life. After his rescue, he had back surgery and suffered from PTSD.
Arnold & Itkin pursued the case under general maritime law. The defendant tried many tactics to win at trial, including: (1) claiming the plaintiff suffered from an extensive history of preexisting back problems, (2) revealing surveillance footage that showed the client performing yard work, (3) calling the plaintiff a faker, (4) attempting to place all the blame on a defendant that had previously settled, (5) pointing out that cause of the tail rotor failure was unknown because the tail boom disconnected upon impact with the water and was unrecoverable, (6) pointing to pre and post accident MRI image similarities, and more. Despite these challenges, Cory Itkin and Caj Boatright proved LeBlanc's claims to the jury by poking holes in the defendant's arguments.
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