Hearing set for Alabama firm's suit against Boeing

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, April 18 Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:02pm EDT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, April 18 (Reuters) - A small Alabama aircraft maintenance company will try to convince a federal judge on May 23 to allow its lawsuit against its former business partner, Boeing Co, to proceed.

Alabama Aircraft Industries filed a wide-ranging lawsuit last September in which it argued that Boeing stole proprietary data from the smaller firm, helping it win $1.3 billion in Air Force contracts to maintain its KC-135 refueling planes.

Alabama Aircraft, which had been responsible for the maintenance of the planes for several decades, argues that those events resulted in hundreds of lost jobs and helped push it into bankruptcy.

Boeing has filed a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the substance of the case has already been decided in a series of earlier lawsuits.

Judge David Proctor on Wednesday told the parties to come to the Birmingham, Alabama, courthouse on May 23 to make their arguments and agree on a schedule for discovery and milestone events in the case.

Joe Ryan, a trustee appointed by the company that bought Alabama's assets out of bankruptcy, said the hearing date marked a step forward for what he described as "David versus Goliath" case. The suit seeks at least $100 million in damages.

Boeing declined to comment since the litigation is ongoing. The company rejected the lawsuit's validity in its motion to dismiss and said that even if Alabama Aircraft won the suit, it could recover no more than compensatory damages.

The lawsuit draws a connection between the KC-135 maintenance contract and a major procurement scandal that sent the former No. 2 Air Force acquisition official, Darleen Druyun, and the former chief financial officer of Boeing to federal prison in the mid-2000s.

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