A pilot claims in a lawsuit that the manager of Front County Royal-Warren Airport broke a contract that he was to use a hangar and receive flying lessons.
Nicolas Chaillan on March 2 filed a civil lawsuit in Warren County Circuit Court in March against airport manager Rock Skowbo and the company Cassaviation LLC, alleging breach and interference of contract and defamation. Chaillan also claimed that Skowbo retaliated against him for reporting what the plaintiff called “illicit activities.”
A Warren County attorney, also named as a defendant, refuted the allegations as baseless in oral argument filed in court on Friday. Fairfax attorney Martin Schubert filed the defense response documents on behalf of Warren County.
Chaillan owns and is the sole member of One Team One Flight LLC, based in Warren County, registered in Delaware. Chaillan says he works as a national cybersecurity consultant who previously held “high-level positions” with the Department of Homeland Security and the US Air Force.
In a recent phone interview, Skowbo refuted Chaillan’s claims, but said the lawsuit could hurt him and his company financially.
Front Royal’s attorney, Andrew P. Hill, is representing the plaintiff.
Chaillan’s three-count complaint alleges breach of contract, tortious interference with a contract and defamation.
The complaint alludes to an agreement between him and Skowbo for a shed, or to a contract between the plaintiff and Skowbo, as an agent of the county.
On Friday, the county attorney filed an objection or challenge to the plaintiff’s complaint in court. The defense says no allegation appears in the lawsuit to indicate that a contract exists.
“There can be no breach of contract if it has not yet been concluded”, declares the objector. “Plaintiffs do not allege any fact that Warren County has any contractual involvement with either plaintiff to provide flight lessons.”
The county is immune from any claim set forth in the count alleging breach of contract, the sovereign immunity plea states. A separate defense plea also filed Friday says the county is not responsible for Skowbo or Cassaviation LLC because he and his company are acting as independent contractors.
The county attorney asked the court to grant the defenses and dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit with prejudice.
Warren County entered into a first contract in late December 1998 with Cass Aviation and Reginald Cassagnol, who served as airport manager, according to the document provided by the county. Warren County Public Works Director Mike Berry said in a March 17 email to The Daily that Skowbo was working as an airport manager under contract. Berry says it is his understanding that Skowbo began assisting Cass Aviation as a volunteer in July 2020 and resumed directorship in August 2020. Cass Aviation has extended his contract effective July 1, 2020.
Following Chaillan’s report of alleged “illicit activities” at the airport, Skowbo and/or Cass Aviation, acting on their own behalf or as an agent of the county, unilaterally terminated the hangar and flying lessons.
Chaillan asked flight instructor Louis “Lou” Strosnider to forward the list of alleged illicit activities to the county, the complaint states. Chaillan says he took lessons from Strosnider until February 4 under the contract he said he had with Skowbo and/or Cass Aviation.
Chaillan adds that he sent a complaint about the alleged illegal activities in an email to the county administration, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.
Chaillan says he bought a plane for $480,000 on the understanding that the airport would provide a hangar.
Skowbo and/or Cass Aviation retaliated against Chaillan when Strosnider filed a complaint with the Airport Commission, the lawsuit says. The defendants responded by prohibiting Strosnider from providing flight instruction services to Chaillan, the lawsuit says. Skowbo also ended all flying lessons for all students and the use of its aircraft. The defendants terminated Strosnider’s services as an instructor for failing to maintain a $5 million insurance policy.
The defendants are accused of having breached the contract when they refused to honor the terms of the agreement by not taking flying lessons to enable Chaillan to obtain a private pilot’s license and provide a hangar for his plane. Chaillan claims to have suffered damages, including increased maintenance costs and the loss of engagements or conferences, which the claimant had to cancel in order to be able to repeat lessons with another instructor on another aircraft. The complaint goes on to state that the county terminated access to public resources mandated under the management contract.
The plaintiff also complains of defamation. Skowbo falsely accused Chaillan of uttering threats or acting violently towards him, the complaint states.
“Chaillan’s work as a consultant in the national security and cybersecurity industries is built on the trust of his clients,” the complaint states. “Although Chaillan no longer works for the United States government, he continues to be an advisor to the Secretary of the Air Force and several senior Department of Defense officials.”
Chaillan claims that Skowbo made false statements about the plaintiff.
“Skowbo’s statement to the county that he wanted to ban Chaillan from the airport clearly shows Skowbo’s retaliatory and revengeful behavior,” the complaint states. “Skowbo’s false statement to the Warren County Sheriff and the statement on the shed ‘waiting list’ that Chaillan had made ‘unethical’ requests to be placed on the top of the list were also knowingly false. and were intended to harm the reputation and profession of Chaillan.”
Chaillan seeks judgment against the defendants for monetary damages of at least $89,600 for breach of contract or that the defendants be ordered to perform under the contract with the plaintiff to provide a hangar for his aircraft. Plaintiff asks that in the alternative, the court order defendants to pay at least $57,100 for tortious interference with the contract. Challain is also seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages against Skowbo and/or Cass Aviation for defamation.