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In Re: Air Crash Near Clarence Center

September 24, 2011

IN RE: AIR CRASH NEAR CLARENCE CENTER,
NEW YORK, ON FEBRUARY 12, 2009,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

This document relates to:

ALL CASES

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 12, 2009, while on final approach to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into a house in Clarence Center, N.Y., killing all 45 passengers, the four-person crew, and one person in the house. By order entered October 6, 2009, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all then-pending actions concerning the crash of Flight 3407 to this Court for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. In Re Air Crash Near Clarence Ctr., N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2009, 655 F. Supp. 2d 1355, 1356 (J.P.M.L. 2009). Subsequently-filed actions have also been transferred here.

Presently before this Court is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Defendant Continental Airlines, Inc. to Answer Interrogatories and to Produce Documents (Docket No. 501). This Court has reviewed and considered the parties' motion papers and finds oral argument to be unnecessary. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege that Continental's negligent and reckless acts and omissions, together with those of the other defendants, caused the crash of Flight 3407. Specifically, they contend that Continental's relationship with Defendant Colgan Air, Inc. was such that Continental retained significant control and oversight over all aspects of the flight as well as the training of the flight crew. Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages against Continental and all other defendants.

The aircraft at issue, a Bombardier DHC-8-400 ("Q400"), was operated by Colgan in its capacity as one of Continental's four "Continental Connection" carriers. The four "Continental Connection" carriers are Gulfstream International Airlines, Cape Air, CommutAir, and Colgan. Plaintiffs contend that discovery produced thus far reveals that Continental used Colgan and its other three code-share partners as "regional carriers," and exercised considerable control over them, particularly as it relates to safety standards, flight operations, and crew training.

Plaintiffs now seek to compel Continental to produce information concerning (1) Continental's involvement in and control of its "Continental Connection" relationships, and

(2) Continental's policies and procedures relating to its training, safety, and flight operations, as well as those of its four "Continental Connection" partners.*fn1 Continental argues that these requests are outside the reasonable bounds of discovery and that discovery instead should be limited to only the crash of Flight 3407 itself. Continental's position is that its relationships with the three other "Continental Connection" partners and their respective operations, as well as its own operations, are not at issue in this litigation. Continental also maintains that complying with Plaintiffs' discovery demands would be oppressive and unduly burdensome.

III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

A. Discovery Standard

District courts enjoy broad discretion when resolving discovery disputes. That discretion is exercised by determining the relevance of discovery requests, assessing oppressiveness, and weighing these factors in deciding whether discovery should be ...


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