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$5M On Table in Helicopter Crash Suit

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Attorneys for an international helicopter manufacturer being sued in Lancaster County District Court offered a $5 million take-it-or-leave-it judgment to one plaintiff in court papers filed Friday.

To the family of Patrick Scollard, a paramedic who was killed during a medical-transport helicopter crash in Norfolk in 2002, Eurocopter SAS is offering $5 million.

A decision must be made by the plaintiff by Monday, according to the order of judgment. But it appears the first of three wrongful death lawsuits in relation to the crash, with each plaintiff blaming design flaws on the helicopter manufacturer, will continue toward trial.

"We intend to resolve this matter in trial and not in the press, as the defendants seek to do," said Gary Robb, a Kansas City-based aviation attorney who is the lead plaintiff's attorney.

"We wonder why the defendant chose to make the offer public and have no further comment other than the court record."

William L. Robinson, a Los Angeles-based aviation attorney defending Eurocopter, declined to comment on the filing.

Bob Creager, a Lincoln attorney not involved in the case, said it wouldn't be fair to call the public offer an unusual move. He said the reason a defense team might offer to settle in court documents as opposed to in private is this: If at trial the plaintiff is awarded less money than what was offered, the plaintiff may not be able to recover as much in interest, costs and expenses from that point on.

Robb, according to his Web site, has won record judgment amounts in regard to medical helicopter accidents, including $350 million in 1995 for a Life Flight pilot and $70 million for a passenger who died in the same helicopter crash. In relation to the Norfolk crash, he will be one of the attorneys from four law firms representing the pilot and two passengers.

Scollard was one of three people on board the helicopter when it took off June 21, 2002, from Norfolk's Faith Regional Hospital to pick up a child with head injuries in O'Neill.

Soon after takeoff, the pilot, Phillip Herring, radioed to dispatchers that he was experiencing mechanical problems, mentioning the foot pedal specifically in a follow-up dispatch.

One minute later, dispatchers were unable to contact him. The helicopter, a Eurocopter AStar 350n B2, crashed at the Norfolk airport, killing all three on board - Herring, Scollard and a nurse, Lori Schrempp.

"We have alleged in this case a serious and fatal defect in this helicopter," Robb said. "We have insisted that the company fix the defect."

The Scollard trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 19, four years and seven months after the lawsuit was filed.

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