The Mobile Register

An Auburn woman whose husband was killed in the ValuJet crash last summer has tapped one of the most successful plaintiffs' lawyers in Mobile to sue the airline and its maintenance contractor.

Attorney Joseph "Buddy" Brown, who has successfully sued national and local companies for millions of dollars in recent years, is now representing Paula B. Sabo of Auburn.

Her husband, Dennis J. Sabo, an education professor at Auburn University, was returning May 11, 1996, from his son's graduation at the University of Miami, Brown said.

Sabo had taken an earlier flight on ValuJet so he could be home for Mother's Day with his wife and daughters. That plane, Flight 592, caught fire and crashed into the Florida Everglades just after takeoff.

The lawsuit charges that ValuJet and its maintenance subcontractor, SabreTech, were negligent in causing the crash. A National Transportation Safety Board report released Tuesday agreed to a large degree, blaming the crash on:
*The failure of SabreTech properly to prepare, package and identify a cargo of hazardous oxygen generators that have been blamed for starting the fire that brought down the plane.
*The failure of ValuJet to oversee properly its maintenance contractors.

But the NTSB, which investigates air crashes, also blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to require smoke detection and suppression equipment in cargo holds.

The FAA is not named in the Sabo lawsuit.

The suit does not specify a dollar amount of damages.

"I never sue for a specified amount," Brown said.

The Sabo suit against ValuJet was filed Aug. 1 in Mobile County Circuit Court. Mobile is an appropriate jurisdiction, Brown said, because ValuJet flies out of Mobile Regional Airport.

"There is no possibility that this could become a class-action suit," Brown said.

Some 110 people were killed in the ValuJet crash, but for one jury to determine an equitable amount for each loss of life would be impossible, he said. He added he did not know the number of other, similar suits that have been filed against ValuJet and SabreTech since the crash.

John R. Matthews of Montgomery, attorney for ValuJet and SabreTech, declined to comment on the suit.

Lawyers Involved: