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Judges Consolidate TWA Suits

April 24, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ Seven lawsuits filed by hostages aboard TWA Flight 847, hijacked in June by terrorists who took the jetliner to Lebanon, will be tried in Boston, the flight’s scheduled destination, a panel of judges has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Caffrey, head of the panel on multi-district litigation, ruled that 13 passengers who filed liability suits in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Boston must combine their cases in Boston.

Flight 847, with 143 passengers aboard, was hijacked June 14 en route from Athens, Greece, to Rome, and was forced to make several stops before landing in Beirut, where the passengers were finally released June 30.

The case is expected to go to trial within a year, James Meehan, a TWA attorney, said Wednesday.

Airline attorney Peter Black said consolidation of the suits pleases TWA because ″spreading the cases all over the country would have made litigation a lot more expensive and difficult for everyone to handle.″

More than 70 percent of the claims against TWA have been settled, according to court documents. Thirty-one passengers have not settled or commenced suits against TWA, the records show.

Robert Dean Stethem, 23, a Navy diver, was slain the first day of the hijacking. His family filed a $16 million lawsuit on April 8 against TWA in New York, and Black said the suit is expected to be joined with the others.

Plaintiffs are William and Violette Darras of Chicago; Richard and Sue Ellen Herzberg, of Norfolk, Va.; Genevieve and Martha Doris of Sparta, N.J.; Francis and Kathleen Walsh of New York; Peter W. Hill of Chicago; and Stuart Darsch, Jack McCarty, Victor Amburgy and Robert Brown, all of Massachusetts.

Caffrey also said the suits should be tried in Boston because ″TWA favors the Massachusetts forum″ and U.S. District Judge A. David Mazzone, assigned to the cases, has ″gained familiarity with the issues and parties.″

Mazzone denied a motion for a class action suit by the four Massachusetts plaintiffs because the other suits had not been ″styled as class actions.″

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