More than 2.5 years after a small plane slammed into an East Palo Alto neighborhood and cut power to Palo Alto, three lawsuits stemming from the fatal, Feb. 17, 2010, crash have been settled, according to court papers filed in San Mateo County Superior Court.
Tesla Motors employees Brian Finn, 42, Andrew Ingram, 31, and pilot Douglas Bourn, 56, were killed in the fiery crash after Bourn's Cessna 310R clipped high-voltage power lines and a utility tower in dense fog at 7:55 a.m., then slammed into homes on Beech Street, destroying one and damaging several others.
Notices that three lawsuits were settled -- with Ingram's parents and aunt, Finn's wife and daughter, and East Palo Alto residents Ervin and Pinkie Hudleton -- were filed Sept. 4-10.
Settlement details have not been released.
Two other suits -- by East Palo Alto residents Lisa Jones and Jose Cortez-Herrera -- have not been settled, according to court records. Jones' lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Bourn was a senior engineer from Santa Clara; Finn a senior manager from East Palo Alto; and Ingram an engineer who lived in Palo Alto. The trio had just taken off from the Palo Alto Airport en route to Hawthorne, Calif., for a business meeting at one of Tesla's facilities.
Air-traffic-control tapes indicated Bourn took off in heavy fog. An air-traffic controller had warned Bourn that he could not be cleared for takeoff due to the limited visibility and that flying would be at his own risk. Bourn said he understood.
Within minutes after takeoff, the plane hit the Pacific Gas & Electric tower and power lines a half-mile northwest of the airport runway. Parts of the aircraft then crashed into Jones' day care center and home, the Hudletons' carport and car, and the garage of an adjacent home. The fuselage ricocheted off a retaining wall in front of the Cortez-Herrera house and exploded in flames, singeing the home and causing smoke damage, family members said after the crash.
Investigators ruled out mechanical failure as the cause of the crash. Pilot error was the probable cause, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined in November 2011.
On Aug. 17, 2010, the Ingrams sued Bourn's estate and his Santa Clara company, Air Unique. The court combined their suit with the Hudletons' and that of Finn's wife, Sherina Yuk Chan. The three lawsuits alleged negligence on Bourn's part for willingly taking off in the unsafe conditions and because he did not follow his flight plan. At the time of the crash, visibility was less than 1/8 according the NTSB investigation.
Bourn was supposed to make "a right turn to a heading of 060 degrees within 1 mile of the airport." Instead, radar data showed the plane turned 45 degrees to the left after takeoff.
In July, Bourn's estate filed a summary-judgment motion to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that -- because Finn, Ingram and Bourn were on a business trip -- their deaths were covered by Tesla's workers' compensation.
The estate lawyers argued that a claim of negligence is barred because the California Worker's Compensation Act provides workers' compensation as the exclusive remedy for injuries or death to coworkers. Zurich North America, which was handling workers' compensation for Tesla, had already determined that compensation would be made, but as of March 3 it had been "delaying death benefits pending the result of its dependency investigation," according to court documents.
The summary-judgment motion was to be heard on Sept. 27. A 10-day trial was scheduled for Nov. 19. Instead, notice of settlement and a request for case dismissals were filed for the Ingrams, Chan and Hudletons. A final hearing to show cause for the dismissal is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2013.
The plaintiffs, their attorneys and defense attorneys for Bourn's estate did not return calls for comment.