ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) -- The Alaska Supreme Court this month upheld a lower court's ruling not allowing a plane owner to present several additional claims in a lawsuit over damage to his plane.
Plaintiff James Madonna owns a two-seat fabric-covered airplane called an Aviat Husky.
Airplanes need regular repair, and Madonna orally contracted with defendant Tamarack Air Ltd. to perform annual inspections and maintenance on his plane.
Tamarack regularly serviced Madonna's plane for several years, until, in 2009, while the plane was on Tamarack's airfield following inspection, a Tamarack employee accidentally towed the Husky into two other planes and damaged it.
Tamarack offered to fix the plane, but Madonna refused that offer.
Instead, he elected to ship the plane to Wyoming and had the plane repaired at the original factory.
All told, he paid more than $50,000 to have his aircraft repaired.
Tamarack argued that Madonna had failed to mitigate his damages and refused to compensate Madonna for the full cost of these repairs.
Madonna sued, and the parties went to trial.
A jury awarded Madonna most, but not all, of the cost of having the plane repaired out of state.
In particular, Madonna claimed $50,909 in damages for the cost of repairs. The jury awarded him $43,878 in damages.
It also awarded $5,000 for the cost of chartering a flight Madonna had hoped to make in his Husky.
The trial judge also awarded 3.75 percent prejudgment interest on the award, as well as attorneys' fees and costs.
On appeal to the state's high court, Madonna argued that the trial court erred by refusing to let him present several other claims for damages related to the accident, including lost income and lost interest on the value of the plane.
Chief Justice Dana Fabe, who authored the court's 17-page opinion, said the court found no error and affirmed the superior court's ruling in all respects.
The lower court treated the case as a straightforward trial for tort damages.
However, Madonna consistently advanced a theory of the case that sounds in contract.
Specifically, he argued that his long-standing oral contract with Tamarack to perform annual maintenance on his plane gave Tamarack more duties after the accident than an ordinary tortfeasor would have.
The Supreme Court disagreed.
The court said Tamarack had no contractual obligation to repair the plane after the accident.
"It was merely resting in Tamarack's parking field when it was accidentally towed into two other planes," Fabe wrote in the court's April 12 ruling.
"Tamarack's resulting obligation to pay for the damage, therefore, has nothing to do with any obligation Tamarack may have had to make annual repairs on the plane."
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.