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Victims' relatives sue Rivera's company over crash

  • Article by: E.J. TAMARA
  • Associated Press
  • January 10, 2013 - 9:07 PM

LOS ANGELES - Relatives of four passengers killed last month with Jenni Rivera in a plane crash in Mexico filed a lawsuit against Rivera's company Thursday alleging the singer was negligent when she hired a faulty Learjet 25.

The civil lawsuit filed in a Los Angeles court seeks unspecified financial compensation from Jenni Rivera Enterprises. It claims Rivera picked the aircraft owned by Las Vegas-based Starwood Management and should have known the state of the plane and the pilots' status.

"There are a lot of doubts about why Jenni Rivera chose that aerial clunker," said attorney Vance Owen, of Kiel & Larson, who represents the plaintiffs.

Rivera's publicist, Arturo Rivera, her makeup artist, Jacob Yebale, her stylist, Jorge Sanchez, her lawyer, Mario Macias, and the two pilots were among the seven people killed when the aircraft crashed Dec. 9 in northern Mexico.

Authorities have not determined what caused the plane to plunge, killing all onboard.

Jenni Rivera Enterprises collects royalties and copyright payments for Rivera, 43, and it manages the singer's other businesses and assets.

The Encino-based company was taken over by Rivera's sister, Rosy Rivera, according to their brother, Pedro Rivera.

Pedro Rivera didn't return a message requesting comment Thursday.

The lawsuit also accuses three other companies that own or once owned the Learjet 25 of negligence, alleging they knew or should have known the plane was not safe to fly and it was "likely to injure or kill any person or persons who used it." It also alleges negligence by 100 unidentified people who took part in the plane's design, testing, sale, maintenance, repairs and checks.

The companies are Starwood Management, which owned the aircraft, Rodartz Financial Group Inc., which owns Starwood, and McOco Inc., which owned the plane for two decades before Starwood bought it.

The lawsuit also alleges the three companies and the unidentified people knew that the pilot and co-pilot did not have the necessary training and were not apt to safely fly the plane.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the same plane was substantially damaged in a 2005 landing mishap at Amarillo International Airport in Texas. It hit a runway distance marker after losing directional control. There were four aboard but no injuries. It was registered to a company in Houston, Texas, as the time.

Starwood has been the subject of a lawsuit and investigations, though none so far have centered on the plane that carried Rivera. Another of its planes was seized in September by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in McAllen, Texas.

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