A lawsuit brought by a woman who maintains that 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 was left with an uncertain fate Wednesday in the wake of the recent death of the only defendant in the case.
Zheng (Julie) Wang sued Wei Chen, chairman of a Los Angeles private equity firm, on March 1 last year, alleging he reneged on a 2014 promise of a six-figure award to the initial Chinese female to accomplish the task.
Chen died in an aviation accident on or about Dec. 20, according to court papers filed by his lawyers.
During a hearing Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin did not immediately rule on a defense request to dismiss Wang’s lawsuit on grounds it should have been brought in China. He previously issued a final decision denying the motion on Nov. 7, but left open the possibility that he could grant Chen’s motion if the defendant agreed to take specific legal steps. His attorneys state in their court papers that he complied before his death.
Landin scheduled a case management conference for Feb. 19.
Wang is seeking 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, had a net worth of more than $30 million, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.
Attorney Samantha Gavin, of behalf of Chen, previously argued that the money at issue is in a Chinese bank and that none of the witnesses are from this state.
Plaintiff’s attorney Keith Wesley countered that both Chen and Wang are Americans. He said Chen wanted 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.
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, according to the suit.
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.
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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