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Discovery Channel settles helicopter crash lawsuit

Movie and TV actors occasionally appear to live a charmed life, immune from many of the risks and hazards that seem to afflict the rest of us. But, occasionally, reality intrudes into these lives too. Many people will remember the helicopter crash in Los Angeles in 1982 that killed TV star Vic Morrow and two children. Another fatal helicopter crash has again demonstrated that TV actors and crew are not immune from the mistakes of others.

In 2013, Michael Donatelli, a cast member on the Discovery Channel show "Lone Operator" was killed when the helicopter in which he was flying crashed into a hillside, killing Donatelli, a cameraman, and the pilot. Donatelli's family and the cameraman's family brought wrongful death lawsuits against the producer, Discovery Channel and other parties, claiming that their negligence caused both deaths. Among the specific allegations of negligence were claims that the pilot did not have the necessary permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in the early morning hours when the scene was being filmed, that his pilot's license had been twice suspended, and that Discovery was negligent in hiring him.

Discovery and the other defendants denied the allegations of negligence, but the parties reached a confidential settlement of both lawsuits last week. Even though the terms of the settlements were not made public, the settlements themselves and the fact that both were approved by the trial judge indicate that the families had received compensation from the defendants.

Accidents such as this one often seem, in hindsight, to be preventable. Plaintiffs often argue that defendants failed to take adequate preventive measures, and defendants claim that they acted reasonably based on what they knew at the time of the accident. Anyone who has suffered serious injury or the loss of a loved one in an accident that appears to have been preventable may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in accident cases. Such a consultation can provide a helpful analysis of the facts of the case and an evaluation of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering from the responsible parties.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Discovery settles wrongful death lawsuit over helicopter crash in Acton," Richard Verrier, Sep. 8, 2015

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