Michael and Diane Haughton have ended a series of legal battles stemming from the plane crash that claimed the life of the R&B star and actress two years ago.
The Haughtons have settled wrongful-death lawsuits against Aaliyah’s label, Virgin Records, as well as several video-production companies and the owner and operator of the twin-engine Cessna that went down shortly after takeoff in August 2001, killing all aboard.
The suits, one in federal court in California, the other in federal court in Florida, were tentatively settled earlier this summer, according to family lawyer Robert Spragg.
Spragg expects the settlements to be finalized soon and filed under seal, meaning terms will not be publicly disclosed.
“I don’t believe the Haughton family will ever recover fully from the loss of Aaliyah,” Spragg says. “It’s been a very difficult two years.”
The Haughtons initially filed suit in May 2002, in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the defendants’ negligence and recklessness contributed to the deaths of the 22-year-old entertainer (whose full name was Aaliyah Haughton) and eight others Aug. 25, 2001, who were in the Bahamas to shoot a video for her track “Rock the Boat.”
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, said the Cessna was “not an appropriate aircraft” for the entourage. The family also alleged the plane was improperly loaded in a “dangerous and unsafe configuration” and claimed the pilot, Luis Morales III, should not have been behind the controls.
The defendants, the suit asserted, had “knowledge that the operation of the [plane] by an inexperienced and unqualified pilot and the selection of an inappropriate aircraft for the charter flight could and would result in a crash.”
An autopsy revealed Morales, who was not licensed to fly the plane, had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash. A preliminary report issued in 2001 by the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed suspicions that the Cessna 402B was severely overloaded, triggering the fatal plunge shortly after its takeoff from Marsh Harbour Airport on Abaco Island bound for Florida.
The lawsuit was subsequently moved to federal court in California. A separate suit was filed in federal court in Florida against the plane’s owners and operators, Atlantic Flight Group, Blackhawk International Airways, Skystream and Gilbert Chacon.
The Haughtons’ legal crew notified the judge overseeing the California case that a settlement deal had been hammered out on July 28, Spragg says. The lawyers said the same thing to the Florida judge at a status conference hearing last Friday.
Word of the settlement comes as celebrity psychic John Edward reveals in his new book, After Life, that Diane Haughton came to him to contact her deceased daughter.
Edward, who hosts the syndicated one-man s