THE mother and sister of a former Royal Marine, who was killed while flying in an antique aircraft in East Dorset, have taken their battle for compensation to London’s Appeal Court.
Lawyers say that the test case, following the death of Orlando Rogers, will have a far-ranging impact on claims brought by victims of aviation disasters in the UK, including those injured and killed in the recent Glasgow helicopter crash.
Mr Rogers was just 26 when he was killed on May 15, 2011, while taking a private flight in a vintage Tiger Moth aircraft near Witchampton.
His mother, Julia, and sister, Jade, from Newton Abbot, Devon, are suing the pilot of the aircraft, Scott Hoyle, claiming his negligence was to blame for the crash after the plane took off from Compton Abbas airfield.
The family, which is seeking six-figure damages, scored a High Court success last year when Mr Justice Leggatt granted them permission to rely upon a report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in their bid for a payout.
The family’s lawyers say the report is central to their case and supports their claim that Mr Hoyle, a businessman from Broadstone, had been attempting a loop when the plane came to grief.
Mr Hoyle denies any responsibility for the tragedy, blaming a technical fault for the crash, in which he was also severely injured.
His lawyers are now asking the Court of Appeal to rule that the AAIB report should be excluded from the case, arguing that it is ‘replete with findings of fact and opinion evidence which do not meet the criteria for admissibility’ in an English civil court.
Robert Lawson QC, for Mr Hoyle, told appeal judges, Lady Justice Arden and Lords Justice Treacy and Christopher Clarke, that the function of the AAIB was to improve safety, not to apportion blame for accidents.
“Mr Hoyle does take serious issue with a number of matters in the AAIB report in this particular case if it is to be deployed for the purpose of attributing blame or liability,” Mr Lawson added.
Michael Crane QC, for Mr Rogers’ family, replied that the report contained ‘material which is highly relevant’, adding that there was no common law rule that prevented it from being admitted as evidence.
The Appeal Court hearing continues.