$300K settlement in 2 survivors’ suit over fatal plane crash OK’d

The federal court has approved a $300,000 settlement deal on behalf of a minor, who was among two of four survivors of a fatal plane crash on Tinian in 2013.

U.S. District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather L. Kennedy found the settlement fair and reasonable for the minor considering the facts of the case, and the child’s claims, and the typical recovery in similar cases.

Kennedy said finding that there is no Commonwealth law regarding the approval of a settlement agreement for a minor child, she reviewed the settlement pursuant only to the standards set forth in a Ninth Circuit case.

The magistrate judge said when determining the settlement is in the best interests of the child, the Ninth Circuit requires that the court consider whether the settlement is fair and reasonable in light of the facts of the case, the minor’s claims and typical recovery by minor plaintiffs in similar cases.

Lisha Gu and her minor daughter, Yuxin Wu, were among the four survivors in a Piper aircraft that crashed on Tinian in October 2013. Gu’s husband and Wu’s father, Xuan Wu, was among the three passengers killed in that crash.

Pilot Luis Silva and a Chinese female tourist were the two other fatalities.

Lisha Gu and the child sustained injuries. They are currently residing in Shanghai, China. They sued Tinian Transportation Management Solutions Inc., Star Marianas Air Inc., the plane’s pilot Silva, and 10 unnamed co-defendants, for negligence-wrongful death, negligence, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Defendants Star Marianas Air and Tinian Transportation Management Solutions, owners/operators of the plane, have settled the lawsuit for $300,000.

The parties, through respective counsels Timothy H. Bellas and Colin Thompson, then requested the court to approve the settlement on behalf of the minor.

During the hearing on the motion to approve the settlement, the parties presented the settlement amount for each individual plaintiff, including the minor. They also presented the settlement agreement, which was filed under seal.

The parties agreed that “the settlement amount of $300,000 less attorney’s fees and advanced costs, shall be deposited into a trust account in China, with Yuxin Wu as the named beneficiary and Lisha Gu as trustee.”

The parties further agreed that the trust shall be used for the support and education of Yuxin Wu until she turns 18 years old.

During oral argument, plaintiffs’ attorney Thompson provided information regarding the head injuries sustained by the child as well as the fee agreement. Thompson also noted that the costs would be divided among the adult plaintiffs Xuan Wu and Lisha Gu only.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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