Damage to an airplane by a city employee has led to a legal battle between the City of Newton and Pilot International, an airplane ferry service.
It appeared on a recent city commission agenda — settlement of a lawsuit against the city from a tenant at the Newton City/County airport. At the most recent meeting, that item was tabled. The agreement was not yet ready.
“We do think we have the case settled. A settlement agreement is in the process of being drafted and circulated,” City Manager Bob Myers told The Kansan. “We are hopeful that we will have one ready for approval by the City Commission at the Nov. 14 meeting. Until then I’m not at liberty to reveal the terms of the settlement, but that will become public knowledge once we present it to the Commission.”
A search of court records in the ninth judicial district court offices at the Harvey County Courthouse reveals some details of the case.
Pilot International had leased hangar space at the municipal airport, and in June of 2015 a city employee moved one of the airplanes hangared in Newton. The almost brand-new Cessna 208 EX was damaged while being moved.
Yes, our employee moved the aircraft,” Myers said. “One of the services we provide for many tenants is the moving (towing) of aircraft into and out of hangars. Many don’t have the equipment or staff to do that themselves. So that is a normal staff function.”
According to the court records, the aircraft sustained about $2,300 in damages during the incident. However, in the court filing, Pilot International stated that the aircraft was “substantially new,” having only about 3.1 hours of flight time. In the court filing, the company claimed the value of the aircraft was lowered by more than $75,000.
The lawsuit filed sought $75,000 in damages along with legal costs. According to a tail number search, the airplane is a single-engine, 12-seat airplane manufactured in 2014.
According to aviationdb.com, the aircraft has since been exported to Indonesia. The owner of the craft is listed as Eric Roberts and Associated Mission Aviation.
Thus far, expense to the city of Newton in connection with the suit has been staff time of the city attorney. The bulk of representation for the case has been paid through a liability insurance policy.
The city has filed a counterclaim in the case, suing for unpaid rent and fuel purchases by Pilot International. That portion of the case is being handled by the city attorney's office.
“Through our deductible, we are responsible for the first $2,500 in overall costs to defend the lawsuit, and our insurance carrier pays the rest of the costs,” Myers said. “... Other than the committing of some staff time by our City Attorney – and also our Airport Manager – our total out-of-pocket costs in the litigation are just the $2,500 deductible."