Four of the six victims who passed away alongside singer Jenni Rivera in a Dec. 9 plane crash are being represented by their families in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles against Jenni Rivera’s company and the owner of the plane which was carrying Rivera and her entourage when it nose-dived from 28,000 feet.
“We cast a wide net to find out exactly who is responsible and it may be that they’re not,” attorney Paul R. Kiesel at a press conference in Los Angeles. “We have named Rivera Enterprises, who likely arranged the charter of this plane, in hindsight a very bad decision.”
In addition to Starwood Management, Jenni Rivera Enterprises, Inc., Rodatz Financial Group, Inc. and McOco Inc. — the company that owned the Learjet 25 from 1981 to June 2012 — are also named defendants in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Starwood Management of Las Vegas negligently allowed the plane to take off, despite several issues. The lawsuit states that Miguel Perez Soto, the plane’s 78-year-old pilot, did not have the instrument flight rule license needed to fly the plane at 35,000 feet and according to the filed suit, was not licensed to fly “passengers for hire.”
The four plaintiffs named in the case include Arturo Rivera, a publicist; Jacob Yebale, makeup artist; Mario Macias Pacheco, attorney; and Jorge Armando Sanchez Vasquez, Rivera’s hairdresser.
The families and estates of the deceased victims are seeking punitive damages for negligence and the “respective wrongful deaths” of their loved ones.
“Each of them was a star in their chosen profession,” said Kiesel of his clients.
The counsel representing the four families added that there were several hypotheses being examined as to the cause of the plane crash.
“One is the incapacitation of the pilot …given a loss of cabin pressure, the pilot and passengers may have lost consciousness,” explained Kiesel. “Another [hypothesis] would be structural, a problem with the wing. The wing had major damage in 2005 and we’re going to get every shred of maintenance history about that plane to find out what happened …. those log books are the DNA of that plane.”
When asked about why the lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles county rather than Mexico, Kiesel offered several reasons; namely that the flight had originated from Los Angeles and the plane’s owner, Starwood Management, is an American corporation.
The defendants, including Jenni Rivera Enterprises, Inc., could not be reached for comment.
“But most importantly, because this plane had an N-tail number – this was a U.S. registered plane. And there are certain requirements when you have an N-tail number that you must always follow,” explained Kiesel. “Despite being in Mexican airspace, they were obligated to comply with the FAA standards in this country.”
Throughout the press conference, Kiesel reiterated that the lawsuit was meant to penalize those whose actions lead to the tragic plane crash.
“This [suit] is to punish the actors for what occurred here,” stated Kiesel. “We feel strongly about providing answers to the families and the community as to why this happened …it’s essential we find these answers.”
The cause of plane crash is still under investigation by Mexican authorities and no official reason for the incident has been released.
News of the lawsuit coincides with the one-month anniversary of Rivera’s death. An iconic Mexican norteña and banda singer, Rivera was well on her way to become a crossover star with the December announcement that she had signed a deal with ABC to star in a network comedy. She is survived by her five children, four brothers, sister, mother and father.
In a recent interview with Telemundo’s Acceso Total, father Pedro Rivera announced that he and several members of the Rivera family will embark on a concert tour honoring Jenni.
“We’re only going to be performing 30 consecutive concerts,” said Rivera, who noted that some of the proceeds from the concert will go to Jenni’s children.
“The money will help them continue with their same way of life.”
John Cádiz Klemack from NBC affiliate KNBC in Los Angeles contributed to this report.