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High court: Pilot waited too long to file lawsuit over crash

June 11, 2018

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed over a 2009 helicopter accident that left its pilot partially paralyzed.

Justices ruled 6-2 last week that a proper complaint was not filed by Rob Hammons of Greenwood against the defendants until after the three-year statute of limitations had expired by six months, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported.

Hammons declined to comment to the newspaper about the decision.

He worked for Provine Helicopter Services and was spraying herbicides on timber from one of the company’s aircraft in October 2009 when it crashed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and published a report in May 2011 saying the probable cause of the crash was a loss of engine power because of fuel contamination. The report indicated the fuel contamination was the result of problems with a dual-use water and fuel truck used by Provine that allowed a small amount of water to leak into the fuel tank.

Hammons’ attorneys filed a lawsuit in December 2011 against Scott Petroleum, claiming the Itta Bena-based company had provided Provine Helicopter with defective fuel. The lawsuit also listed unspecified corporations or persons whose names and liability were unknown at the time. Attorneys said that the lawsuit would be amended once those identities and their liabilities were determined.

In April 2012, Scott Petroleum’s attorneys gave Hammons’ attorneys a copy of the NTSB report.

Hammons’ attorneys filed an amended lawsuit a year later, which was three years and six months after the crash. It named five manufacturers as defendants and claimed for the first time that the fuel truck and its components were defective. The amended lawsuit said the manufacturers of the equipment should be held responsible for Hammons’ injuries.

The defendants responded that Hammons’ claims were inadmissible based on the state’s three-year statute of limitations and because the original complaint didn’t properly claim their liability in the matter.

Circuit Judge Margaret Carey-McCray ruled in favor of the manufacturers and dismissed the lawsuit. Hammons’ appeal was rejected last year by the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Then in its decision Thursday, the state Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of both lower courts.

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