A Bibb County judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit over Macon Downtown Airport safety to continue in Fulton County.
Bibb County Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis Jr. ruled Wednesday against the city of Macon’s efforts to have him block improvements at the airport. Macon filed the case against the owner and insurance company of a business jet that crashed at the airport to keep them from forcing some upgrades that they say are related to safety.
The Dewberry Air jet crashed in September 2012, and Old Republic Insurance Company paid $1 million on the claim. Old Republic initially filed a lawsuit in Bibb County, claiming the city had improperly resurfaced a runway, causing the jet to hydroplane on pooled water. That initial Bibb County lawsuit was withdrawn, but a nearly similar lawsuit was filed in Fulton County.
National Transportation Safety Board reports found the runway had not been sloped to federal specifications but faulted the pilot for landing too fast on a slick runway. There were no serious injuries in the crash, which sent the plane off the runway and into trees across a highway.
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The city of Macon owned the Macon Downtown Airport. It has since merged into the Macon-Bibb County government, which took over the city’s responsibilities.
Ennis rejected the city’s efforts to have him declare whether there was any requirement for the city to build runways that sloped away from the center. The insurance company said that would prevent rainwater from pooling.
Ennis relied heavily on a Georgia Court of Appeals case, which decided a judge should not declare what safety precautions the Atlanta Braves should have used to keep spectators from getting hit by fly balls before a regular lawsuit.
In his order, Ennis wrote that the city sought such a declaration to undermine the Fulton County lawsuit.
“The contentions of the City in the declaratory judgment case appear to be nothing more nor less than an attempt ‘to test the viability of its defenses’ in the renewal suit, notwithstanding the City’s protestations to the contrary,” Ennis wrote.
With Ennis’ order, the city will test its defenses in Fulton County.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.