Company awarded $423K in suit against Maine aviation firm after emergency landing

Posted Nov. 30, 2013, at 5:46 a.m.

OXFORD — A U.S. District Court judge has awarded more than $423,000 in damages to an Ohio company in its lawsuit against Oxford Aviation.

Collecting the money is complicated by the possible bankruptcy of Oxford Aviation owner and President James Horowitz. Earlier this month, Horowitz transferred the company to himself and promptly filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Joseph Skilken and Co. filed its complaint against Oxford Aviation in August, alleging it failed to properly put a company-owned Cessna together after painting it, resulting in a harrowing emergency landing in May when a tail piece broke off in midflight near Colorado Springs, Colo.

At the time, the plane was piloted by Steven Skilken, the company’s president, with his wife, Karen Skilken, her parents and the Skilken’s two daughters as passengers. Karen Skilken also filed a lawsuit against the company.

Horowitz never responded to the complaint and the court entered a default against the defendant in September.

An attempt to reach Horowitz at the Oxford Aviation offices off Number Six Road in Oxford on Friday was unsuccessful.

In a Nov. 18 judgement, Judge John A. Woodcock ruled in favor of the plaintiff and ordered Oxford Aviation to pay $423,295.77 in damages, plus interests and costs, less than the amount requested by the company in October.

Skilken and Co. asked for more than $518,000 to cover repairs to the Cessna, a complete refund for the “unacceptable” work Oxford Aviation did on the plane and diminution of the aircraft’s value.

Almost $94,750 of the requested damages were for expenses Skliken and Co. said it was owed because it was unable to use the Cessna for business trips and was forced to buy airline tickets and rent other planes and vehicles.

Skilken and Co. rents property in West Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to its website.

Woodcock, in a Nov. 15 judgment, expressed concern with the damages, noting that Skilken and Co. did not give enough detail to convincingly prove it was owed the money because it was unable to use the Cessna.

The judge ordered Skilken and Co. to further explain its claims, but in a notice filed Nov. 15, Daniel Nuzzi, the Lewiston attorney representing Skilken and Co., waived the claims and requested the court issue the remaining damages.

It is unclear, however, when and how Skilken and Co. will collect the damages now that Oxford Aviation’s assets have been transferred to Horowitz and he has filed for bankruptcy.

On Friday, Steven Skilken said he was unsure what course the case would take moving forward. The damages awarded to his company might be caught up in the bankruptcy proceedings or Skilken and Co. may need to sue Horowitz personally, he said.

Skilken’s attorneys are also trying to determine if Horowitz was insured at the time of the emergency landing and if so, which insurance company he might direct a claim to, Skilken said.

Despite the complications brought by the bankruptcy and rising legal costs, Skilken said he is committed to pursuing his case against Horowitz and Oxford Aviation.

“Justice needs to be served here,” he said.

According to court records, no judgment has been ordered in Karen Skilken’s lawsuit, although Oxford Aviation is also in default in that case. Karen Skilken is asking for $156,065 to cover medical expenses and emotional distress caused by the emergency landing.

Oxford Aviation is also facing forcible entry and detainer complaints from Oxford County and Community Concepts Finance Corp.

Oxford County is attempting to evict Oxford Aviation from the buildings it leases from the county at the Oxford County Regional Airport. Community Concepts is looking for $62,500 in company assets Horowitz put up as collateral to secure a loan back in 1996.

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