Editor’s Note: This article was published as part of a content-sharing agreement between Army Times and The Fayetteville Observer.
It could take more than a year before the case of a Special Forces medic suing a parachute manufacturer is resolved, according to court documents.
Staff Sgt. Brycen Erdody and his wife Cassidy Erdody filed the lawsuit in April in the Eastern District Court of North Carolina against parachute manufacturers and suppliers after Staff Sgt. Erdody suffered injuries when the parachutes he was wearing improperly opened and pulled him out of an aircraft in May 2022.
Defendants named in the suit are Airborne Systems North America of New Jersey Inc., South Dakota-based AeroStar International LLC, and Delaware-based BAE Systems Inc. — all of which supply parachutes to the Army, according to the lawsuit.
In a June 5 amended complaint, HDT Global LLC was dropped from the list of defendants and Delaware-based TransDigm Group Inc., of which Airborne Systems is a subsidiary, was added.
All defendants have denied the allegations or stated they did not have sufficient information about the allegations.
According to a scheduling order approved on Oct. 24, the Erdodys and defendants have until Oct. 20, 2024, to complete the discovery of evidence and witnesses in the case.
A trial date is set for March 25, 2024.
In the lawsuit, Erdody, who was a Special Forces medical sergeant and a network communication systems specialist, stated he was participating in an exercise with his jumpmaster class on May 25, 2022, when his reserve parachute opened unexpectedly inside the aircraft, pulling him outside.
The complaint stated Erdody blacked out and landed in trees about 50 feet from the ground. When he regained consciousness, the lawsuit stated, he cut himself free and noticed a “gaping wound” on his arm, forcing him to press his artery to the bone to slow the bleeding.
The document stated Erdody sustained more than a dozen injuries including the loss of use in his arm and hand, a fractured rib, a dissected artery and traumatic brain injury. The suit states that Erdody’s injuries will require months and years of surgeries, treatment, rehabilitation and therapy, and have caused Erdody’s wife and children to suffer because he is no longer able to engage in the same activities as he did before the accident.
The lawsuit states that an Army investigation found that his injuries “were not caused by his negligence nor the negligence of others in the plane or on his team.”
The suit alleges that the MC-6 and T-11R parachute systems used by Erdody “were inadequately and defectively designed, manufactured and assembled” and “cannot withstand the wind speeds to which jump masters are exposed.”
The suit alleges that the parachute’s handle creates a “sail shape” that causes the ripcord to release and the parachute to “inadvertently” activate and that testing of the parachutes was “flawed.”
The suit alleges that the parachute systems’ defects have previously been fatal and that the defendants failed to recall the product or provide “adequate warnings.”
Erdody is seeking $75,000 to cover the medical costs and is asking for a jury trial.
In a July 25 response by Aerostar, the company denied designing the MC-6 parachute and T-11R reserve parachute but said it manufactured portions and assembled the chutes that have a specific number on them.
Attorneys said Aerostar does not have “sufficient information” to admit or deny whether it performed services for the chutes worn by Erdody on the day of his accident.
“Aerostar denies any defects in testing, as it performed tests in compliance with specifications provided by the U.S. Army … final inspection of products was performed by the U.S. Army,” the Aerostar response stated.
In an Aug. 15 response, Bae Systems said Erdody’s parachute “was never in its possession” and denied designing or redesigning the chutes.
“BAE Systems admits only that it uses reasonable care with respect to all of its products,” the response stated.
Additionally, BAE Systems noted it is not the proper defendant because it didn’t “design, manufacture, assemble, or sell the MC-6 Main Canopy and T-11R Reserve Parachute system at issue or any of their components.”
“Plaintiffs’ damages, if any, were proximately caused by the acts or omissions of others over whom BAE Systems had no control or right of control,” the response stated.
In a Sept. 5 response, TransDigm Group, Inc. said it didn’t have sufficient knowledge about the allegations in Erdody’s suit and also pointed to Erdody’s injuries possibly being caused by a third party it has no control over.
“TransDigm denies (Erdody’s) parachute system was ever in its possession,” the response stated.
In a Sept. 5 response, Airborne Systems North America of NJ, Inc. also either denied the allegations or said it didn’t have sufficient knowledge.
The response for Airborne Systems stated it sold MC-6 and T-11R parachutes to the Army but denied that it manufactured the parachute used by Erdody and stated that the Army was the design authority for the parachute used by Erdody.
According to the scheduling order, the discovery period will include finding information about:
• The government’s design, approval, procurement, and specifications of the parachute and its components.
• The government’s knowledge of any risks associated with the design of the parachute and its components.
• The identity of the supplier(s) of the accident parachute and its component parts.
• Information about the cause of the parachute’s deployment and Erdody’s injuries.