OXFORD — The U.S. District Court in Portland has entered a default against Oxford Aviation, at the request of plaintiffs in two lawsuits claiming negligent and reckless actions by the company. 

The parties are seeking damages from an emergency landing after a piece of the tail of the airplane they were flying on May 31 broke off during a descent into Colorado Springs (Colo.) Airport.

The suits claim Oxford Aviation failed to put the plane back together properly after painting it.

In two motions for default, filed with the court on Sept. 18, attorney for the plaintiffs Daniel A. Nuzzi said Oxford Aviation failed to file a response to the complaint within 21 days of being served with a summons on Aug. 27. 

By granting the request for default, the plaintiffs can move forward to request a default judgment from the court, which likely will schedule a hearing to assess damages in the case. 

“When you don’t answer a complaint, then it’s on the other party to ask for entry of default, which basically results in the facts being admitted,” said David Bertoni, a lawyer who is working with Nuzzi on the cases.

Oxford Aviation still has an opportunity to file a motion to set aside the default, according to a case manager at the court. 

A phone call to Oxford Aviation owner and President Jim Horowitz of Casco at the company’s headquarters at the Oxford County Regional Airport was not returned Thursday afternoon. 

Joseph Skilken & Co. and Karen Skilken, both of Columbus, Ohio, filed separate lawsuits against Oxford Aviation in Maine U.S. District Court on Aug. 21. 

Bertoni said it was relatively unusual for a company to not respond to a suit filed against it.

“Ordinarily, a business takes lawsuits seriously,” Bertoni said. “This is two lawsuits in U.S. Court. One would think you’d pay attention to that and want to answer, so it’s unclear what’s going on.” 

He noted that numerous efforts by the Skilkens and their attorneys to contact Oxford Aviation, even before the lawsuit was filed, have been unsuccessful. 

“There’s basically been radio silence,” Bertoni said. 

The next step in the process will be to file a judgment of default and move on to address the amount of money the Skilkens will be looking for in damages, Bertoni said.

A case manager for the court in Portland said the plaintiffs have until Oct. 18 to file a request for default judgment from the court. 

The plaintiffs allege that Oxford Aviation was hired to paint a Cessna 441 aircraft owned by Joseph Skilken & Co. and failed to put the plane back together properly. 

According to the lawsuits, a piece of the plane’s tail, which was not properly attached, broke off in mid flight as the aircraft, piloted by Steven Skilken, 63, descended into Colorado Springs Airport on May 31. 

His wife, Karen Skilken, the couple’s two daughters, and Karen Skilken’s mother and father were passengers in the plane when the incident occurred. 

The lawsuits allege that it was only due to Steven Skilken’s extraordinary efforts that tragedy was averted.

In interviews with the Sun Journal last month, the couple described the emergency landing as a terrifying, near-death experience. 

In her suit, Karen Skilken claims Oxford Aviation’s actions and inactions servicing the Cessna were “so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and were atrocious and utterly intolerable.”

She is suing the company on counts of negligence and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Joesph Skilken & Co. is suing on the grounds of breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent representation.

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