A High Court judgment yesterday opened the way for General Electric (GE) to face a multimillion-pound compensation claim over the collapsed German airliner Blue Wings.
A GE subsidiary, PK AirFinance, had the right to repossess the airline's craft when it ceased operation in January 2010 after running into financial difficulties. Judge Havelock-Allan ruled that it must disclose all outstanding technical papers related to the aircraft, which it subsequently sold at auction.
Alpstream, a Swiss-based aviation company with a majority stake in Blue Wings, claims PK undertook unnecessary maintenance work on the aircraft and sold them to another GE subsidiary for less than their market value. It alleges to have suffered losses of between £17m and £18.3m as a result. Alpstream is owned by National Reserve Corporation, an investment group run by Alexander Lebedev. Mr Lebedev is also the owner of The Independent.
In his ruling on the pre-action disclosure brought by Alpstream and affiliated companies, Judge Havelock-Allan said the documents needed to be disclosed as the applicants had a "far stronger position to make their case" against PK than in other similar civil cases. He noted Alpstream "did not rule out that the applicants might raise a case based on one of the economic torts, such as conspiracy to use unlawful means or conspiracy to injure."
The judge refused a request for commercial documents relating to the sale of the aircraft also to be disclosed. But he said they would have to be released in any subsequent legal dispute between the parties.
Robin Springthorpe, lead solicitor for Alpstream, said the judgment meant a civil action could be brought later this year. "The judge recognised the strength of Alpstream's claims and we now have the documents we need to proceed with the case," he said.