First lawsuit in Brazil plane crash filed in U.S.

SAO PAULO Tue Jul 31, 2007 2:25pm EDT

Relatives of one of the nearly 200 victims of Brazil's worst air disaster pray during a minute of silence while marching towards the site where the TAM airlines A320 skidded off the runway last week and exploded, near Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport July 29, 2007. REUTERS/Rickey Rogers

Relatives of one of the nearly 200 victims of Brazil's worst air disaster pray during a minute of silence while marching towards the site where the TAM airlines A320 skidded off the runway last week and exploded, near Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport July 29, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Rickey Rogers

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The family of a Miami resident who was killed this month in a plane crash in Sao Paulo has sued Brazilian airline TAM, the first of several lawsuits expected after the worst aviation disaster in Brazil's history.

The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, also names European jet manufacturer Airbus, the Goodrich Corp., and International Aero Engines (IAE) as defendants, the family's lawyers said in a statement on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ricardo Tazoe, a 35-year-old Peruvian who worked for Banco Santander in Miami.

Tazoe was among the 199 people who were killed when an Airbus A320 flown by TAM Linhas Aereas skidded off a rain-slicked runway at Sao Paulo's Congonhas Airport on July 17 and barreled into a cargo building, bursting into flames.

The suit charges TAM with negligence, arguing that it should not have allowed the plane to fly because one of its thrust reversers was not working. The complaint also alleges pilot error contributed to the crash.

"From the evidence gathered so far, it's clear that TAM knew there were problems with the aircraft," Steven C. Marks, an attorney at Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck, said in the statement. "Had (the thrust reverser) been operational, it may have prevented this accident."

TAM, which declined to comment on the case, has acknowledged that the right thrust reverser on the plane was broken. But both TAM and Airbus have said aviation regulations allow an A320 to fly for up to 10 days with a defective thrust reverser, which is used to complement the braking system.

The lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified financial damages, also accuses Airbus of negligence. Other defendants include IAE, which assembled the plane's engine, and Goodrich, the manufacturer of the aircraft's braking system.

IAE is a multinational consortium of United Technologies Corp. Pratt & Whitney, Britain's Rolls-Royce Plc, Japan's Aero Engines Corp. and Germany's MTU Aero Engones.

The law firm that filed the suit is also representing several families of victims that died last September when a Boeing 737 flown by Gol Linhas Aereas clipped wings with a private jet and crashed in the Amazon jungle, killing all 154 people on board.

(Additional reporting by Silvio Cascione)

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