Fossett searcher loses Nevada Supreme Court compensation appeal

CARSON CITY — A search and rescue expert who assisted in the initial hunt for missing aviation adventurer Steve Fossett in 2007 has lost his appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to collect additional money for his efforts.

A three-member panel of the Nevada Supreme Court, in an order dated Wednesday, upheld the decision of Clark County District Judge Linda Bell that disallowed some of the financial claims made by Chris Gadbois in his efforts to locate Fossett.

The ruling also upheld the lower court finding that Gadbois failed to produce evidence of fraud in the financial dispute with the Fossett family and its representatives.

Fossett, 63, was in a single-engine plane when he took off from Barron Hilton’s Flying M Ranch 30 miles south of Yerington on Sept. 3, 2007. He did not return and searches involving the Civil Air Patrol and others were mounted to locate him. His remains were finally found in October 2008 in the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Fossett was the first person to solo around the world in a balloon and had broken numerous other flight records.

When Fossett first went missing, Gadbois was hired by Mark Marshall on behalf of the Fossett family to help in the search but an agreement was not put into writing. Gadbois then subcontracted for aircraft and pilots.

All the subcontractors were later released by the Fossett family and Gadbois’ team left the search. Gadbois sent an invoice for $264,000 and the Fossett family paid him $119,000.

Gadbois then claimed he was still owed nearly $110,000. Following a bench trial he was awarded an additional $25,500 plus interest.

He appealed the lower court decision finalized by Bell in January 2012.

But the Supreme Court said the lower court did not err in its decision, which included disputes about the terms of the oral agreement and the lack of a written contract.

The decision rejecting the appeal cited the District Court finding that the Fossett family paid all of the undisputed items, and that the refusal to pay some of the items was due to a genuine dispute about the terms of their agreement.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.


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