Airline cases find local lawyer via Internet

From Post staff reports           An airliner crash earlier this summer attracted national and international headlines when it was reported that 12 crew members and 156 passengers were killed shortly after the plane had taken off from Tehran-Imam Khomeini International Airport in Iran.          A bizarre incident involving a Southwest jet received similar media treatment two days earlier when a story unfolded that detailed how the plane developed a football-size hole in its fuselage causing the plane’s cabin to depressurize and forcing it to make an emergency landing in Charleston, W. Va.           Although occurring (in the case of the crash outside of Iran) thousands of miles from Wilson County, both events have a very close local connection.           A Lebanon attorney, who recorded his first case involving the victim of a commercial air crash that happened some three years ago, is now representing the daughter of a man who lost his life in the crash just 16 minutes from Tehran’s international airport and is also the lawyer for three passengers of a Southwest jet that was forced to land in West Virginia.           Keith Williams, of the Lebanon firm Lannom and Williams, is carving somewhat of a unique niche in his practice, at least unique for a trial lawyer from a Middle Tennessee bar.           His first legal filing involving a commercial plane crash came months after Comair Flight 191, a Delta connection flight, crashed taking off in Lexington, Ky. on Aug. 27, 2006.           Since this incident, which claimed the lives of 49 persons, all on board except a co-pilot, Williams has now become the attorney of record for one client involving the crash near Iran on July 15, and for three others who were on board when the Southwest plane made the emergency landing in West Virginia on July 13.           His client in the case involving the Caspian Airlines jet that departed Tehran’s international airport is from California. She contacted Williams after researching references about him on the Internet from his experience with the crash in Lexington.

According to Williams, his client, a U.S. citizen who lives in California, lost her father in the crash which is reported to be the second worst air disaster in Iran’s history. All on board, including all passengers and all crew members, were killed when the plane suddenly turned 270 degrees and entered into a rapid descent, slamming into the ground, exploding on impact and disintegrating.

Williams said he is routinely in contact with his client in this case and has visited with her once in San Francisco.

“We talk frequently on the telephone and email each other” about the case, he said.

The Caspian Airlines crash is still under investigation, Williams noted. He said he wasn’t sure how long it may take foreign authorities investigating the accident to complete their work. In the U.S., he said an investigation of this magnitude may take as long as two years or so.

The case is unusual because it involves international law. The plane that took off from Tehran’s airport was bound for Armenia. At this time Williams said he wasn’t sure as to where the venue may be established for the case adding that the Warsaw Convention and/or Hague Protocol may be applied to determine venue.

His three clients in the Southwest incident include two from Clarksville, and a third, a police officer, from Boston, Mass. Again, as in the Caspian Airlines crash, his clients learned of him from researching previous plane accidents and found him listed as one of the attorneys of record in the crash that occurred in Lexington.

Williams has also represented clients involving three private plane crashes, has had one case filed against the Federal Aviation Administration, and is now representing the family of Robert Koudelka, of Mt. Juliet, who was killed in November 2008 when his helicopter went down on the Wilson County side of the Cumberland River near Highway 109. Williams said the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that investigates transportation accidents, notified him Tuesday that they were releasing the wreckage of the helicopter. He has until Nov. 2, 2009 to file a lawsuit in this case before the statute of limitations is enforced. 

Williams, who raises and enjoys Thoroughbred race horses, said he has no plans to change his focus in his local practice, but he does admit it’s somewhat unusual for a Lebanon lawyer to have an international case pending as well as several others related to commercial air traffic and aviation.