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Minor heirs in 2000 Samal plane crash to be paid upon reaching 21

March 28, 2008 3:59pm
CHICAGO, Illinois – The minors, who will benefit from the compensation for the death of their relatives in an Air Philippines Flight 541 crash on Samal Island eight years ago, will be receiving their indemnity when they turn 21 years old.

Attorney David J. Gubbins, guardian ad litem (legal guardian), told this reporter that the 30 minors, who will benefit from the $165-million court-supervised settlement, will get the compensation in annuity. This means the compensation will be released to them in lump sum or once a year until they reach the age of 30 or for the next nine years. “This is tax-free."

Gubbins, 62, however, said that if these minors would need the compensation for emergency, such as for education and medical expenses, he will petition the court on the need and the court will make a ruling whether to grant or reject the request.

The minor beneficiaries are survivors of the 110 of 131 passengers and crew who perished in the crash of Flight 541 off the hilly Samal Island near Davao City in April 2000.

A minor stands to receive approximately $1.5 million each, less the attorney’s fees of around 30 percent. The 21 other survivors, who did not join the class action suit of the 110, opted to receive $20,000 to $25,000 offered by Air Philippines to settle court action shortly after the accident.

To obtain the compensation, the lawyers for the survivors will file a petition separately for each survivor before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Duncan-Brice, who will approve or disapprove the petition for compensation.

The petition will establish the relationship of the claimant to the deceased flight passenger and the court will determine if the petitioner is deserving of the compensation. For instance, if the passenger was unmarried and the passenger has two surviving siblings and a parent, the two siblings and the parent will get one-third each of the compensation package.

The relationship will be based on the Illinois Wrongful Death Statute to determine the next of kin or what percent the next of kin will receive.

Gubbins said the challenge that he will face is to find the right people, who will be entitled to the compensation. These people should not misuse the compensation. He said he will need to open and keep the communications lines to these people.

If the next of kin of the minor dies, he will be looking for a replacement. Likewise, if something happens to him, the court will be appointing his replacement.

Another challenge that he will be facing, Gubbins said, is to find a reputable bank and bank manager, who will handle the funds of the minor. He said he will probably travel to the Philippines to perform his duties.

Gubbins said he will be paid $250.00 hourly for his responsibilities. He said when the time comes for him to collect; he will present the bill of particulars to the court. And the court will determine if the payment he was trying to collect is “reasonable and fair."

Gubbins said that this is not the first time he is assuming the role of the legal guardian. When two Garuda Indonesian Airlines planes crashed separately sometime in 1997 and 2000, he was also appointed legal guardian for about 200 minors, a responsibility he is still doing to this day.

He said he also went to Indonesia while performing his duty as a legal guardian for the minor beneficiaries of those who died in the Indonesia ’s national airline planes.

For a legal guardian to be appointed by the court, one has to have knowledge of the law, especially personal injury law; experience in similar responsibilities, like him, who has handled similar responsibilities for the last five years; qualified and to be trusted.

A personal injury lawyer for the last 10 years, Gubbins looks forward to the challenges of his appointment as legal guardian of Air Philippines Flight 541.

The compensation received by minors is part of the class action suit filed against Woodale, Illinois-based AAR Aircraft & Engine Group, a global provider of products and services to the aviation industry, leasing aircraft and engines to airlines around the world, and the Chicago-based Fleet Business Credit Corporation, owner of the ill-fated plane, which leased it to Air Philippines.

The class suit was initially filed by the Chicago-based Nolan Law Group on behalf of Illinois resident Jovy Layug, whose mother, Josefina T. Layug, was one of the 131 passengers, who perished in the crash near the Davao City International Airport on April 19, 2000, the worst aviation disaster in Philippine history.

Other survivors joined Layug in the suit when the Nolan Law Group won a ruling from Chicago-based Cook County Court Judge Kathy M. Flanagan that the lessor of the ill-fated plane “can also be subject to liability because it is in the chain of commerce."

Flanagan denied the motion for forum non convenience filed by AAR Aircraft & Engine Group as it failed to prove that the “Philippines is an available and adequate alternative" forum for the lawsuit.

Flanagan said, “the fact that Illinois is the home state of the Defendant, it is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Woodale, Illinois. It is difficult, if not impossible, to accept the proposition that the Defendant’s home county is inconvenient for it, especially when it has signed sworn answers to the Plaintiff’s rule 216 Request to Admit that it has no employees in the Philippines, there are no corporate records located in the Philippines; purchased the aircraft in the United States; all payments for the lease were sent to the First National Bank in Chicago, etc." - GMANews.TV
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