FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         CIV
THURSDAY, MAY 15, 1997                             (202) 616-2765
                                               TDD (202) 514-1888



     Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger of the Department of
Justice's Civil Division today issued the following statement on
the settlement agreement between the United States and USAir
relating to the crash of USAir Flight 1016 in Charlotte, North

     The agreement, first and foremost, assured the prompt
payment of damages for everyone who made claims against the
United States and USAIR.  It did not deprive any one associated
with this unfortunate tragedy of his or her legal rights.  And it
saved the taxpayers the considerable time and expense of a
lengthy trial.

     Here are the facts:

     Upon reaching an agreement in principle with USAir, the
United States promptly informed the court and counsel for the
plaintiffs.  All parties, including the counsel for the victims,
therefore, knew about the agreement shortly after it was
concluded.  In relation to the March trial, the court ruled
before the trial commenced that the agreement would not be
disclosed to the jury unless USAir told the jury about the
government's formal admission of liability--which USAir did not. 
Neither USAir nor plaintiffs' counsel sought to appeal the
court's ruling.  Furthermore, the government, immediately upon
receiving media requests for the settlement agreement, advised
the court the agreement should be disclosed, pursuant to the
Freedom of Information Act, at the conclusion of the trial.  That
is what happened.

     To characterize the settlement agreement, as some have, as a
"blank check" to USAir, simply misreads the agreement itself.  It
is standard practice, and common sense, for the party paying the
majority percentage of a settlement to "control" the settlement
process, and I stress the word "process."  Thus, the government
controlled cases in which it paid 70 percent and USAir controlled
cases in which it paid 70 percent.  Nevertheless, the agreement
contained a safeguard saying the controlling party "shall consult
with and obtain the consent of the other party as to the amount
of the proposed settlement."  To say that constitutes a "blank
check" simply misunderstands the agreement. 

     Finally, the settlement agreement in no way deprived
plaintiffs of seeking punitive damages from USAir.  Quite the
contrary.  The settlement provided for the prompt payment of
compensatory damages through either a settlement or a trial
against the United States.  For those who made claims against the
United States and USAir, the agreement eliminated the risk of not
recovering any damages.  Those who chose to sue USAir could do
so; that was their right.  Similarly, it was USAir's legal right
not to concede any negligence until the close of the trial.

     I also want to point out that this settlement agreement was
beneficial in two ways: It provided plaintiffs with compensation
without subjecting them to prolonged litigation and it saved the
taxpayers a substantial amount of money.  If a jury had found the
government only 1 percent responsible for this accident, the
United States would have had to pay 50 percent of all judgments
in the passenger cases and 100 percent of the USAir flight
attendant cases--with no upper limit.  This agreement reduced the
50 percent to 30 percent, the 100 percent to 70 percent and
capped the total pay out at $25 million.

     Finally, the United States, after determining it was
partially at fault, admitted liability.  That was the right thing
to do.  This was a fair agreement for the government, the
victims, USAir and the taxpayer.