Instead the case went to trial. “We won, walked away and paid
nothing,” Katt says.
“That was a bellwether case for us,” Doody says.
It was a bellwether case for Katt as well. Afterward, he and Leib,
whom he’d met in a hotel-fire case in Racine, started their own
firm, and Katt began to focus on aviation cases.
Among his cases was the crash in which Chicago radio host Bob
Collins’ plane collided with another small plane in Waukegan, Ill.,
leaving Collins and two others dead. The case sparked multiple
lawsuits and Katt was hired to represent Collins’ insurer. “Then the
government got sued in the case, and they sued the controllers. There
were a lot of lawyers in that case. It settled relatively reasonably,” Katt
says. “There just wasn’t that much insurance to go around.”
He also represented Delta Air Lines Inc. in a rare class action
suit claiming passengers suffered emotional distress during an
emergency landing in Salt Lake City. No one was physically hurt
during the incident.
“A day before the statue of limitations runs out, this one person files
a claim against Delta claiming emotional distress, all these problems
that she’s had since then,” Katt says. “The plaintiff’s attorneys were
successful in getting the case certified as a class action. Most of these
people didn’t even know they were in the case. In fact, it’s the first class
action that was ever certified against an airline in the U.S.”
Katt was brought in to replace another set of defense attorneys.
“We got that case turned around and settled for—it’s confidential—
but really, peanuts,” he says. They also got the class decertified.
More recently, Katt defended a case for Comair, which is owned
by Delta. The airline was sued by the survivors of a man who died of
cardiac arrest as the plane was descending into LaGuardia Airport
from Savannah, Ga. “The claim against us was that we didn’t apply
an AED [automated external defibrillator] to him, or provide some
other first aid to him, and that we didn’t get him down fast enough,”
Katt says. “The medical issues were really interesting because the
guy had had prior health problems, so it was a question of, ‘Would
an AED even have done any good to the guy?’”
No trial. “We were happy with our settlement,” Katt says. “The
client was happy. That’s what I care about.”
PERKS COME WITH THE JOB. FOR THE DELTA CASE, AS PART OF
his preparation, Katt flew in a simulator to recreate the emergency
landing at LaGuardia to see if different flight paths could have
landed the plane more quickly. “That’s the first time I’ve been in
a simulator,” he says, adding, “I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been
all over LaGuardia, I’ve been all over Kennedy. I’ve been up in
helicopters, airplanes, control towers.
“It’s like when you’re a little boy. I always wondered, ‘What’s back
there?’ Well, then you get to go in.”
“Bill is a rare breed,” Leib says. “He’s a lover of life. He works
hard, and the clients and cases mean a lot to him.”
So after studying countless plane crashes, and combing over
horrific evidence in many cases, does Katt have a fear of flying?
“No,” he says. “Not at all.”