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Wisner Baum Wins Appeal Reviving Military Helicopter Crash Lawsuit

Army pilots who perished in a 2011 helicopter crash at Fort Benning, Georgia

The families of two Army pilots who perished in a 2011 helicopter crash at Fort Benning, Georgia will have their long-overdue day in court.

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed a lower court decision and revived a lawsuit brought by the estates of Chief Warrant Officer Steven Redd and Captain John D. Hortman. The two Army pilots died on August 8, 2011, when the MH-6M “Little Bird” helicopter they were flying experienced a mechanical issue and crashed during a training exercise.

The family members of CWO Redd and Cpt. Hortman filed a lawsuit in 2013 against various defendants alleging that design and manufacturing defects in the fuel control system caused numerous mechanical failures, which left the Army pilots unable to control the aircraft.

While a lower court dismissed the case on preemption grounds, the Appeals panel found that the district court judge had erred in granting summary judgment for the defendants, including Rolls-Royce Corp. and Goodrich Pump & Engine Systems Inc., reasoning that the family members’ claims were not preempted by the Federal Aviation Act as the lower court had decided.

“We disagree,” the panel wrote in the decision issued today. “Field preemption is always a matter of congressional intent, and we think Congress’s removal of military aircrafts from the (Federal Aviation Act)’s reach indicates that it did not wish to include them in the FAAct’s preempted field,” wrote the Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel. “Rather, Congress intended for the Department of Defense to have autonomy over their own aircrafts.”

Military accident attorney Timothy A. Loranger praised the panel’s decision, noting that the families of the deceased have waited for a long time for their day in court.

“The families have been fighting for justice for their loved ones who lost their lives while serving their country as a result of faulty equipment,” said Loranger. “This could have been avoided and a ruling from the Court of Appeals is bittersweet, considering that they are all preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving.”

Adalia Redd, the widow of Steven Redd, and his children, Dezaray, Jazlyn, and Trystan are represented by Timothy A. Loranger and Crawford Appleby of Wisner Baum.


On August 8, 2011, CWO Redd and Capt. Hortman were piloting a military helicopter in connection with a training exercise at Fort Benning, Georgia. Approximately 36 seconds before the helicopter went down, the helicopter’s Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC), which controls the flow of fuel to the engine, malfunctioned. The malfunction caused the FADEC to provide an insufficient amount of fuel needed for continued flight.

Unfortunately, despite taking all appropriate steps in response to this emergency, the pilots were unable to regain control of the helicopter.

The helicopter crashed, killing them both.

The families of CWO Redd and Capt. Hortman allege the fatal helicopter crash resulted from defects in the FADEC’s design and manufacture.

Punitive damages are sought on the basis of allegations in the complaint that the manufacturers knew about the defects in the FADEC system. The complaint further alleges the defendants concealed these defects, the consequence of which led to the deaths of CWO Redd and Capt. Hortman.


Wisner Baum is a law firm based in Los Angeles, California. The firm’s attorneys represent over 18,000 plaintiffs in a broad range of civil litigation, including military accidents.

Since 1985, the firm has won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements across all practice areas, including commercial transportation cases involving truck crashes, aviation disasters, bus crashes, train accidents, and more.

The firm has earned a reputation for breaking new legal ground, holding major corporations accountable, influencing public policy, and raising public awareness about important safety issues.


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