This is the case of a flight instructor, Paul Preziose, who is being sued by the owner of an Oregon skydiving operation. Over a long period of time, Mr. Preziose observed a pattern of rule infractions and threats to safety at the Hobby Field Airport in Creswell from the operations of the skydivers. Mr. Preziose began documenting the repeated safety problems and provided that documentation to the Creswell city administrator who, in turn, passed the information to the FAA. As a result of his efforts to improve the safety at Creswell, Mr. Preziose is being sued by the skydivers.
Several Creswell-based aircraft owners have formed a Legal Defense Fund in an effort to assist Mr. Preziose with the financial burden of defending the case. Our initial goal was to raise $5,000-$8,000, which appeared to be what he would need to defend the case. However at this point it appears that the cost to defend the case will far exceed those initial estimates. To date, we have raised a little over $3,000 from about 30 pilots based at Creswell who feel that an injustice has been done.
Even through Mr. Preziose’s attorney feels that they have a good chance for dismissal of the case under Oregon’s Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) law, the financial burden of the defense still exists. We are very concerned about the chilling effect that a lawsuit of this type and the resulting cost of the defense has on the willingness of citizens to point out FAA violations and/or safety of flight problems.