Sides bicker in case over Roane Co. tree accident

By Kelly Holleran | Mar 18, 2009

CHARLESTON –- A Wyoming corporation claims in a federal lawsuit it should not be obligated to pay defense costs in a case a Utah couple filed against it.

Robert Lee and Angela Shaw filed a federal suit against Trans Aero Helicopters, alleging that Robert Lee Shaw was injured by a falling tree limb as he was drilling wells on Sept. 11, 2006, at a Roane County site. The limb fell because of wind from the rotor blade of a helicopter operated by Trans Aero Helicopter Services, the Wyoming corporation, according to the complaint.

Since the incident, Trans Aero has incurred defense costs that it alleges should have been paid by a Texas and Colorado corporation.

Trans Aero and the Texas company, Dawson Geophysical Company, entered into an agreement in which Dawson hired Trans Aero to provide services to Dawson, including transporting the company's employees and external cargo, Trans Aero.

Trans Aero entered into an almost identical agreement with the Colorado company, Heli-Port Drilling, the suit states.

As part of both agreements, Dawson and Heli-Port agreed to pay for any defense costs that arose out of services Trans Aero provided for the companies, it claims.

At the time of the accident, Shaw was working for Heli-Port, which was hired by Dawson for the drilling of wells at the remote, mountainous Roane County site, the suit Trans Aero filed Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court states.

Heli-Port hired Trans Aero to deliver and land drilling equipment by helicopter to the work site, which it was doing at the time of the incident, according to the complaint.

Trans Aero claims that because it was providing services for Heli-Port and Dawson, the companies should be required to pay for its defense in the Shaw case.

It even sent Dawson two letters – one on Oct. 30 and one on Jan. 8 – demanding payments for its defense, according to the complaint.

However, Dawson responded in a Jan. 15 letter, saying it refused to pay costs and that it was prepared to litigate whether it was required to defend the company.

"Dawson's counsel also indicated that it intended to preemptively seek to add this coverage and indemnification issue to the underlying Shaw Action," the suit states.

Heli-Port has not responded to a letter Trans Aero sent it on Jan. 8, in which the company also demanded defense payments.

In the four-count suit, Trans Aero is seeking compensatory and consequential damages in excess of $150,000, plus interest, attorneys' fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

It is also requesting the court declare Dawson and Heli-Port obligated to indemnify Trans Aero against and hold the company harmless from all claims in the Shaw lawsuit.

Trans Aero is represented by Ted M. Kanner of The Ted Kanner Law Office in Charleston. Robert D. Finkel of Manion, McDonough and Lucas in Pittsburgh will serve of counsel.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-CV-0134

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