- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Supreme Court has sent a lawsuit over a Peru helicopter crash back to Multnomah County.

The helicopter supplied by an Oregon company crashed into a mountainside in the Andes in 2008, and the families of eight Peruvian passengers think mechanical error was the cause.

The families sued Evergreen Helicopters, which also provided pilots for the Peruvian copper mine workers.

A Multnomah County judge initially tossed the lawsuit, agreeing with Evergreen lawyers that Peru was the more convenient forum in which to litigate the claims.

The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned that decision in 2014, and the state Supreme Court agreed Thursday. The case now returns to Portland for trial.

“While the trial court was undoubtedly and appropriately concerned that much of the evidence concerning the crash would be found in Peru, it appears as though the trial court did not consider the possibility that a significant amount of documentary and testimonial evidence…is likely to be found in Oregon,” Chief Justice Thomas Balmer wrote.

The helicopter carrying two pilots and eight employees of mining giant Rio Tinto crashed during bad weather, killing everyone aboard. Among other things, the parties disagree over whether mechanical problems were to blame and who had supervisory authority over the pilots.

Richard Yugler, the appellate attorney for the plaintiffs, praised the high court opinion as a “nod to equality” and the global world.

“Frankly, if these were Oregonians who were killed, I think every trial judge in the country would keep the case here in Oregon against an Oregon company,” Yugler said. “Just because they’re Peruvians doesn’t mean the case goes back to Peru.”

Tom Sondag, the lawyer representing Evergreen Helicopters, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Evergreen Helicopters, based in McMinnville, Oregon, was sold to Portland’s Erickson Air-Crane Inc. in 2013.

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