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Carbon to reach lawsuit settlement with airline

Published October 28. 2009 05:00PM

A civil action lawsuit filed by Carbon County against Southwest Airlines is coming to a close.

Reports of the suit that were disclosed recently state that a proposed $3.5 million settlement between the Texas-based airline company and investors' lawyers has been reached. The agreement, Carbon officials said, is tentative and must be approved by the court before it is finalized.

The action began last April when Carbon County voted unanimously to give Schiffrin, Barroway, Topaz and Kessler LLP of Radnor, Pa., the green light to proceed with entering into a civil action against the airline.

At that meeting, Robert Crampsie, county controller, said that the county retirement fund, which owns 9,000 shares of the company's stocks, lost thousands of dollars because of the company's failure to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

"This goes beyond a financial issue," Crampsie said at the time. "There is a security and safety issue here as well."

The lawsuit, which the Carbon County retirement system and Mark Cristello filed in August 2008, was because Southwest Airlines failed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration regulations and flew numerous planes that were not inspected. The company, at the time, was also being fined $10.2 million by the FAA for operating some of its Boeing 737s without conducting mandatory inspections of the aircraft. Southwest paid $7.5 million for the FAA fine.

According to an Associated Press article, "in the settlement document the airline officials said they 'believe that they acted properly at all times,' and settled the case to avoid a long and costly fight."

Under the settlement, Southwest Airlines will add safety-related employees and increase training for maintenance workers for up to two years. Carbon County will also drop claims against the company.

When asked about the suit, the Carbon County commissioners, who are also on the retirement board, said they are not able to comment on the matter yet.

Carbon County was the first county to enter as a plaintiff in the suit, in the hopes that this action would force Southwest Airlines' board of directors to take action to alleviate the problem.

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