William Katt knows defending aviation clients after an accident isn’t easy, but it’s a challenge he’s more than up for.
“There’s always a natural sympathy for the survivors and then there are the people who are afraid to fly – so those are two humps you need to get over in any case,” said Katt, head of the aviation practice and regional managing partner for Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP in Milwaukee.
Today Katt’s expertise in aviation litigation is sought out by major commercial airlines, helicopter companies, charter plane companies and manufacturers, but he found his first aviation client through a friend in California.
“He was golfing with someone who needed a litigator in Wisconsin so he told them about me,” Katt said. “I won that case and then I was hired to take on more. My practice grew from there.”
Education plays an integral role in how Katt works. When taking on a case, he said, he strives to learn as much as possible about what’s at the root of the lawsuit. If it’s a part that’s possibly defective, for example, Katt learns how it’s manufactured and how it should work.
Samuel Lieb, a fellow attorney at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, said Katt is known nationwide for defending aviation clients.
“Bill has been hailed as the go-to trial counsel for death and serious injury cases, and he has been involved in numerous cases filed against a legacy airline,” Lieb said. “He’s just an excellent attorney – both in and out of the courtroom.”
Accidents involving planes and helicopters garner a lot of attention and Katt estimates that about 90 percent of all cases are settled before trial.
“These cases are very complex. There are a lot of experts involved from both sides,” he said. “Every case is different and they can be lengthy as well. We usually start out filing motions, begin the discovery process and then hopefully come to some kind of agreement before reaching trial. But if it goes to trial, I’m prepared.”
Katt, who took flying lessons to learn more about the aviation industry, said he learns something new with every case, but in the end it all comes down to being a solid litigator.
“I started out being a general litigator and have also done a lot of product liability cases as well,” he said. “Right now, about 90 percent of what I do is related to aviation, but there are other cases. When it comes litigation defense, the principles are the same.”