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‘American Made’ Plane Crash Lawsuits End in Settlement

The producers of the Tom Cruise film “American Made” have settled all litigation surrounding a 2015 plane crash in Colombia that killed two pilots.

The settlement resolves pending suits in both California and Georgia. A notice of settlement was filed in Santa Monica Superior Court on Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The litigation arose from the crash of an Aerostar 600 on a flight from Santa Fe de Antioquia to Medellin on Sept. 11, 2015. The crash killed pilots Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl, and badly injured the third occupant, Jimmy Lee Garland, leaving him paralyzed.

Purwin was an industry veteran, having done stunt piloting on films since the late 1980s. He had flown the Aerostar earlier on the day of the crash to shoot sequences for the film. He was seated in the rear while Berl piloted the short flight to Medellin at the end of the day.

American Made” chronicles the life of Barry Seal, a pilot who smuggled drugs for the Medellin cartel in the 1980s. It was released in 2017 and grossed $135 million worldwide.

Purwin’s widow, Kathryn, and his adult children filed a wrongful death suit in April 2016 against producers Imagine Entertainment, Cross Creek Pictures, Vendian Entertainment and Quadrant Pictures. The suit alleged that the companies had negligently allowed Berl, who was not trained on the Aerostar, to fly the plane. The suit also named Berl’s estate as a defendant.

Berl’s family filed its own wrongful death suit in September 2016, naming the production companies, Garland and Purwin’s estate as defendants. The suit alleges that Berl was compelled to fly the plane even after giving repeated warnings that he did not have sufficient experience with the plane.

The producers filed a counterclaim against Purwin’s company, Heliblack, and his estate in August 2018, alleging that Purwin had bought a faulty plane for the shoot and had exaggerated his credentials in order to get the job.

Purwin’s estate argued that the production was rushed and beset by problems, and that the producers failed to provide a pilot with local knowledge for the flight to Medellin. A Colombian accident report concluded that the pilot lacked familiarity with the terrain.

The crash also generated litigation between the Berl estate and Garland in Georgia, where Garland lives, as well as litigation involving two insurance companies over potential liability for the crash. The production companies also sued Purwin’s company and Garland’s company in Georgia, seeking to offset any liability for the crash.

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