When your clients are in aviation, sometimes you need to go above and beyond to truly understand them. You fly with them, you work with them on the tarmac or in the gate areas, or you learn the basics of aircraft engine repair. These are all things Katherine Staton has done in her continual effort to fully understand the challenges that clients face both in business and in the courtroom.
Katherine's willingness to go the extra mile, combined with over 20 years of experience in aviation law and litigation, sets her apart and helps clients succeed in a difficult industry.
"I think one of the most important things you can do in this field is to gain first-hand experience, and that doesn't come from sitting behind your desk," she says. "You have to go out and spend time with your clients to really get a sense of what they're up against on a daily basis."
To gain that in-depth experience, Katherine often schedules field days with her clients, which include airlines, aircraft manufacturers, fixed-base operators, and insurance companies. She has worked at gate counters and in dispatch, toured factories and served alongside flight crews, and worked the ramp at airports – all on her own time. She is also licensed as a private pilot and once attended an aircraft engine repair school to better understand the issues involved in a client's case.
The insight Katherine has gained during these field days has produced tangible benefits for clients. For example, while working on-site with two major airlines, Katherine conferred and strategized with the airlines to create cautionary signs in aircraft jet bridges to help prevent accidents. Since installing the signs, injury claims declined. "It's about being proactive," Katherine says. "By knowing what the issues are, it is then easy to work as a team with our clients to create solutions together."
While Katherine works to help clients avert legal headaches, she is also a seasoned trial lawyer with experience in a wide range of litigation matters in aviation as well as other business areas. Her diligence in the field pays off in the courtroom, where her thorough understanding of the issues enables her to handle cases efficiently. Often, this involves securing a summary judgment, dismissal, or settlement. Sometimes, however, clients feel it is in their best interest to go to court, and in these situations, they have come to rely on Katherine's experience and rigorous preparation to achieve results.
"Aviation is a very difficult and regulated industry, and claims are addressed in a specific way; we are always looking at how we can handle claims as efficiently and effectively as possible."
– Katherine Staton
In one such case, American Airlines defended a federal class-action lawsuit brought by passengers who complained that the inconvenience caused by a flight delay constituted a loss under the Warsaw Convention (now the Montreal Convention), which governs liability on international flights. Katherine led a Jackson Walker trial team that secured dismissal of the inconvenience claims, thereby establishing that such "inconvenience damages" do not result in economic loss and are not recoverable under the Convention. "That was a long-term example of a partnership with a client that was helpful for the entire aviation industry," she says.
Nowhere is the need for cooperation more acute than in the airline industry, which since 9/11 has been buffeted by economic woes, including a decline in passenger travel, and rising fuel and labor costs. Katherine's experience working in North Texas, which is home to a large and diverse group of aviation-related companies that includes some of the biggest names in the business, has given her keen insight into the industry's unique challenges and peculiarities.
"We have consistently worked with our clients to be strategic in how we handle litigation and to be sensitive to cost issues. We do that across the board," she says. "Aviation is a very difficult and regulated industry, and claims are addressed in a specific way; we are always looking at how we can handle claims as efficiently and effectively as possible."
Katherine's commitment to going the extra mile for clients extends to her community involvement as well. She is active in a variety of aviation-related professional organizations including the Aviation Section of the Texas State Bar, and the International Aviation Women's Association, of which she is currently President. She also writes and speaks frequently on topics of interest to the aviation community.
Whether informing clients about legal developments, helping them avoid litigation or defending them in court, Katherine goes above and beyond the call to help her clients succeed.
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