Ese Lynn Falae, the wife of Deji Falae who died in a plane crash has instituted a N245.5 million suit against the Associated Airline and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The widow and her three children stated that their demand represented compensation for the earnings Mr. Falae would have made over the next 15 years less living expenses, cash discount and the statutory limit of $100,000.
Apart from the late Falae’s wife, the other plaintiffs are Ayomide Falae, 15-year-old student of Day Waterman College in Abeokuta, Ogun State; Omowonuola Falae, a 13-year-old girl, and Oreoluwa Falae, a seven-year-old pupil at Corona Schools in Lagos State.
Deji Falae was 42 years old at the time of his death on October 3, 2013.
It would be recalled that Falae died in an aircraft owned by Associated Airline conveying the remains of former Governor Olusegun Agagu from Lagos State to Akure, the Ondo State capital, for burial.
At the time of his death, he was the Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Ondo State.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs averred that the aircraft crashed due to the defendants’ wrongful acts, neglect or default.
According to the lawsuit, some of the defendants breached their statutory duties by allowing Associated Aviation Nigeria Limited to operate its ill-fated Flight 361 in a manner that endangered the lives of passengers and indeed caused the death of Mr. Falae.
The plaintiffs claim that the NCAA’s delinquency enabled the airline to fly without procuring a legally-binding insurance policy covering its liability under Nigerian law as well as its liabilities for damages that may be sustained by third parties such as the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit stated that the deceased made N10 million annually from his law firm practice at the time of his death, adding that he received N5 million annually as a commissioner in Ondo State. The lawsuit also listed the deceased’s income from his construction firm at N20 million. It added that the deceased spent N8.750 million annually as his living expenses.
The widow stated that the late Falae paid rent on a five-bedroom duplex at Dolphin Estate, Lagos, where he and his family lived until his untimely death, adding that the burden of paying the rent had fallen on her since her husband’s death.
She added that if he had not died, Mr. Falae would have paid the school fees of their children till the completion of their education.
The lawsuit also stated that the late Falae used to pay for the plaintiffs’ vacation outside Nigeria every year.
The lawsuit disclosed that the plaintiffs spent N2.5 million on the funeral of Mr. Falae on November 14, 2013.
In addition, they incurred legal fees of N5 million in prosecuting the current lawsuit, they stated.
The lawsuit urged the court to declare the defendants culpable in the death of Falae. They are also petitioning the court to award N108.5 million, £160,740 and $19,000 against the defendants.
In its own statement, Associated Aviation Nigeria Limited described the lawsuit as gold digging.
Represented by the law firm of M.A. Bashua, the airline denied the plaintiffs’ claims that the airline was negligent in the handling of the plane that crashed.
A sworn statement by the airline’s Chief Operating Officer, Taiwo Raji, declared that the crashed aircraft had nothing wrong with it at the time of take-off, adding that it never developed any mechanical fault.
Declaring that the plaintiffs were neither aviation experts nor the statutory body responsible for investigating airline accidents, the airline argued that there was no evidence before the court to prove negligence on its part.
According to the airline, the plaintiffs were not qualified to claim damages under common law, the Fatal Accidents Act 1846 and Fatal Incidents law of Lagos State.
The defendants also stated that Mr. Falae’s wife had picked up agreement forms to receive initial immediate payments of $30,000, adding that she had failed to return the forms with necessary documentation establishing her relationship with the deceased.
The court adjourned further hearing till November 4.