On June 26 2008 one of Quantum Helicopters Ltd's Bell helicopters suffered a hard landing in British Columbia following an engine failure, causing damage to the rotorcraft.

Quantum commenced legal proceedings alleging that the engine failure was caused by a defective power turbine blade due to a fatigue crack, which caused an overstress fracture of the remainder of the blade. Quantum also alleged that the fatigue crack originated as a metallurgical anomaly in the power turbine blade which had been introduced when it was cast.

Quantum named a number of parties as defendants in the action, including:

  • Honeywell International Inc, the engine manufacturer;
  • Howmet Castings & Services, Inc and Howmet Corporation, the companies alleged to have cast the subject blade; and
  • Airborne Aero Engines Ltd, an aircraft engine maintenance facility which performed work on the helicopter before the accident.

Several bundles of allegations were made as to Airborne's negligence in the claim, two of which were that Airborne:

  • failed to comply with Honeywell's overhaul manuals, instructions, bulletins and recommended practices for the overhaul of the engine; and
  • failed properly to service, repair, test, inspect and maintain the helicopter, including the engine, in accordance with the applicable manufacturer's manuals, recommendations, bulletins, advisories, instructions for continuing airworthiness, the Canadian Aviation Regulations, Canadian Aviation Regulations standards and the standards of good airmanship.

Airborne brought a motion to the Superior Court of British Columbia seeking particulars as to these allegations. Airborne's position was that these allegations, as pleaded, were overly broad. Airborne maintained that it could not understand the case against it unless it was provided with greater specificity by the plaintiff.

The master deciding the motion heard arguments from Quantum to the effect that the action was still at the pleadings stage, and that documentary discovery was ongoing. As a result, argued Quantum, it was too soon for it to provide the requested level of specificity sought by Airborne.

Quantum also argued that some of the information that it needed to make out its case (and provide greater particularisation as to the negligent actions allegedly committed by the defendants) was still in the hands of other defendants, such as Honeywell, which was expected to produce its applicable overhaul manuals, instructions, bulletins, recommended practices for the overhaul of the engine in question and instructions for continuing airworthiness. Only when those documents were produced, and the Honeywell representative had been questioned on discovery, would Quantum be in a position to set out informed particulars of negligence.

Master MacNaughton accepted Quantum's arguments, with one exception. She held that she was satisfied that Airborne had been provided with sufficient particulars to "take the matter through to examinations for discovery". She noted that there was no evidence from a representative of Airborne suggesting that it did not have sufficient particulars to respond to the action or to know the case it had to meet at this early stage of the proceedings. However, on the issue of the Canadian Aviation Regulations, MacNaughton considered the voluminous index to the regulations, which was attached to an affidavit filed by Airborne, and noted that there are "many parts of the [regulations] which are irrelevant to this action and will not be in issue between the parties". She therefore ordered that Quantum provide particulars as to which sections it intended to rely upon.

It is likely that MacNaughton's rather bald order that Quantum provide particulars as to which sections of the regulations it is relying upon will be problematic for the parties – as there are thousands of sections and subsections in the regulations (organised under nine parts, each with its own set of subparts) – and MacNaughton did not specify the level of precision to which the sections had to be cited.

Because there was divided success on the motion, costs were ordered "in the cause" (ie, the party that ultimately succeeds in the action will be entitled to costs of the motion).

For further information on this topic please contact Carlos P Martins at Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP by telephone (+1 416 982 3800), fax (+1 416 982 3801) or email ([email protected]).