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Aviation Disaster Law Specialist, HLS Alum Dies

By Sam J. Lin, Contributing Writer

Lee S. Kreindler, a Harvard Law School (HLS) alum considered a pioneer in aviation disaster law, died Tuesday in Manhattan at the New York University Hospital. He was 78.

After graduating from HLS in 1949, Kreindler began his career as a partner with his father, Harry E. Kreindler, in the Kreindler & Kreindler Law Firm. Over the course of the past half-century he built the firm into a giant in the field of aviation accident law.

Kreindler represented the families of victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan American Flight 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland, in a case that Libya settled for $2.7 billion.

Later, he worked on a lawsuit brought by 50 families of the victims of Trans World Airline Flight 800, which crashed off the coast of Long Island in 1996.

Kreindler was one of the first to declare confidently that the tragedy was caused by mechanical failure, when many speculated a bomb or missile was to blame.

“TWA 800 exploded at 13,700 feet in calm weather. It would have taken a huge bomb to bring that plane down, and the larger the bomb, the more difficult it is to smuggle onto a plane,” Kreindler told the Harvard Law Bulletin in 1997.

According to The New York Times, Kreindler once said of all of the major aviation tragedies in the last 50 years, “You name them, we were in them.”

Recently, Kreindler and his firm worked on securing compensation for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kreindler’s first air disaster case came in 1952 when a National Airlines DC-6 crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey. For the case, Kreindler worked at an airplane maintenance shop to learn the design of the plane. The knowledge he gained from that experience helped him craft a propeller-failure theory that persuaded a jury to award what was then the highest award in an air crash suit to his client.

Kreindler is survived by his wife, Ruth, a son, James P., who is a partner in the Kreindler & Kreindler law firm, a daughter, Laurie Laster, a sister and seven grandchildren.

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