Jury favors Bangor in jet lawsuit

Posted Oct. 17, 2009, at 5:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — After deliberating for about four hours Friday, a federal jury found the city of Bangor did not have to pay additional damages to an Indiana firm for a 2007 “blue water” spill that damaged an airplane, according to an attorney for the former owner of the private jet.

Aquila LLC sued the city after an airport worker accidentally pumped 100 gallons of lavatory fluid, or “blue water,” into the toilet of a private jet instead of the 7 gallons it could hold, according to court documents.

The trial began Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Information about the verdict was not posted over the weekend on the federal court’s Electronic Case Filing system. It is expected to be available today.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock, who presided over the trial, decided many of the issues in the case this past summer after considering summary judgment motions.

Woodcock found that the city was liable for the repairs to the airplane performed by Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek, Mich., immediately after the May 24, 2007, incident. The city has reimbursed Aquila LLC of Bloomington, Ind., which owned the aircraft, more than $130,000 for that damage, according to court documents.

Aquila’s attorney, Brendan Collins of Washington, D.C., sought the difference between the $12 million the firm claimed it would have received in a deal to sell the plane made a few days before the accidental overflow and the $11.2 million the plane actually sold for after the incident.

In addition to the $800,000, Aquila sought reimbursement for the nearly $400,000 it paid for a presale inspection before completing the sale in December 2007.

The city’s attorney, Martha Gaythewaite of Portland, told the jury Tuesday that Bangor “has apologized” for the overflow and reimbursed the company for the cost of repairs that resulted from it. She said Aquila’s owner discussed selling the plane with a Florida man, but the two did not have a deal that was legally binding.

The intensive cleanup of the plane the city paid for included replacing carpeting, carpet padding and insulation, the city’s attorney told the jury. The market value of the plane was not reduced as Aquila claimed, the city maintained.

Aquila is owned by Sherman Rogers of Bloomington, Ind. The company buys, refurbishes and then sells corporate jets.

Information about who eventually purchased the plane was not included in court documents.

Aquila bought the 68-foot-long Canadair Challenger, a twin-engine, nine-passenger jet, from Caterpillar of Peoria, Ill., in 2006, Collins told the jury Tuesday in his opening statement. In May 2007, Rogers took the plane, which had been refurbished, to the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva, Swit-zerland, in hopes of selling it.

In a “handshake deal,” Aero Toy Stores LLC, a firm that markets new and used corporate aircraft, agreed to buy the plane for $12 million, Collins said. The plan, the attorney told the jury, was to take the plane to Aero’s home base in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and complete the sale on May 29, 2007, without a presale inspection. That went awry on May 24, 2007, when the plane landed in Bangor to go through customs, take on fuel and have the blue water in the toilet replaced, Aquila’s attorney said, and Aero backed out of the deal.

Aero’s owner, Morris Shirazipour of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., later offered $11 million for the jet and Aquila declined to sell the plane for that price, according to court documents.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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