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 by a man who later died in a plane crash is thinking about pursuing her legal case against his estate, her lawyers told a judge Tuesday.
Zheng (Julie) Wang sued Wei Chen in March 2018, alleging he reneged on a 2014 promise of a six-figure award to the initial Chinese female to accomplish the task.
Chen was on board a small plane headed to Memphis when it crashed in a northwest Atlanta park, killing him and everyone else on board on Dec. 20. A well-known Memphis businessman, he founded Sunshine Enterprises, which focuses on the wholesale distribution of Chinese construction and industrial equipment, in 1998.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin said Tuesday morning that he will defer ruling on a defense request for dismissal of 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 said he wants to know if any of the members of Chen’s estate have contacts in California. He scheduled another case management conference for April 23.
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, 47, 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.”
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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