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The Daily Record - July 13, 2009

$7.2 Million Jury Verdict For Death in Iowa Helicopter Crash

By Scott Lauck
The Daily Record

Kansas City lawyer Gary Robb added another notch to his belt of helicopter-crash lawsuits with a $7.2 million victory on Monday in Polk County, Iowa.

The jury verdict was on behalf of Kathy Schlotzhauer, a Lenexa, Kan., woman whose husband, Roland Schlotzhauer, was killed while filming a movie scene.

Schlotzhauer was a cameraman on “The Final Season,” a movie filmed and set in Iowa. The helicopter carrying Schlotzhauer hit a power line during shooting in June 2006. Schlotzhauer was killed, and the helicopter’s pilot and a producer were severely injured.

“We hope that this verdict serves as a wake-up call to the movie industry that safety must always come first,” Robb said in a press release. He noted that the entire budget for the film had been $7 million.

The jury also returned a $4.2 million verdict to Tony Wilson, the injured producer. The pilot, Richard Green, was held 75 percent at fault in Schlotzhauer’s suit and 100 percent at fault in Wilson’s suit. The remaining quarter of the verdict was assessed to the film production company.

Green’s attorney, David Luginbill, of Ahlers & Cooney in Des Moines, was out of the office and not available for comment, his office said.

Robb’s lawsuit blamed the fatal accident on poor planning and inadequate supervision by the movie producers, as well as pilot error. However, the jury returned a defense verdict for Bristol Aerospace, which designed the helicopter. Mark Tripp, an attorney with Bradshaw Fowler Proctor & Fairgrave in Des Moines, did not return a phone call.

“The Final Season” was filmed in rural Iowa and stars Sean Astin. It tells the story of a small Iowa school’s baseball team in the last season before it merged with another school. It was released in 2007.

Robb and his wife, Anita Robb, have made their reputations on representing helicopter-crash victims. Their successes range from a $350 million verdict in 1995 on behalf of a helicopter pilot whose engine failed during flight to a $38 million settlement in 2007 for a woman who was severely burned when her tour helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon.

The Iowa case is Schlotzhauer et al. v. Bristol et al., CL 102824.

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