A judge Monday took heard arguments but did not immediately rule on whether a woman, who says she’s the first Asian person of her gender to fly a single-engine plane around the world and was wrongfully denied a promised award, can proceed with her lawsuit in California.
Zheng (Julie) Wang sued Wei Chen, the chairman of a Los Angeles private equity firm, on March 1, alleging he reneged on a 2014 promise of a six-figure award to the initial Chinese female to accomplish the task.
Chen filed a motion maintaining the case should have been brought in China.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin heard arguments in the case, then said he wanted to mull the jurisdictional issues further. He said he may have a decision later this week.
Wang seeks triple and punitive damages, including the $163,000 prize money, on allegations of fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract. The promoter that helped prepare her financially for the flight, China General Aviation LLC, also is named as a plaintiff.
Chen, the chairman of Sun Capital Investment Bank in Los Angeles, has a net worth of more than $30 million, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
Attorney Samantha Gavin, of behalf of Chen, argued that the money at issue is in a Chinese bank and that none of the witnesses are from this state.
“This matter does not involve California,” Gavin said.
Plaintiff’s attorney Keith Wesley countered that both Chen and Wang are Americans. He said Chen wants to move the case in order to make it so difficult for Wang to move forward with her case that she may have to consider dropping it.
“He may be right,” Wesley said.
Chen’s other lawyer, Jeffrey Farrow, said Wang has never provided any fuel receipts or other evidence to support her claim to the prize, but instead filed the current lawsuit along with two others in New York.
According to Wang’s complaint, Chen announced in September 2014 at the International Aircraft Owner and Pilot Association in Beijing that he was willing to pay the prize — which amounts to a million Chinese yuan — to the “first Chinese woman to complete an around-the-world flight.”
Chen said he was holding the contest to encourage more females to learn to fly, the suit states.
Wang, a certified flight instructor experienced in flying fix-wing aircraft, says she entered the contest in May 2016. The Palm Beach, Florida resident and CGA spent more than $230,000 getting her ready for the trip, according to her complaint.
Wang, then 43, embarked on her flight from Addison Airport near Dallas on Aug. 17, 2016, and successfully returned from the global trip at the same airport on Sept. 19, 2016, according to her lawsuit.
Wang says she became not only the first Asian woman to accomplish such a task, but also the first person of Chinese descent to do so by herself and the eighth woman of any ethnicity to fly around the world solo.
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