Mo. court reinstates $28M in punitive damages in plane crash lawsuit

May 8, 2013 at 9:13 PM
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ST. LOUIS, May 8 (UPI) -- A Missouri appeals court reinstated $28 million in punitive damages to the families of a pilot and sky divers killed when a plane with a defective part crashed.

The Franklin County trial judge had removed the punitive damages from the jury's total award of $48 million, which included $20 million in compensatory damages, ruling there was no evidence Doncasters Inc., the airplane parts manufacturer, knew an engine part responsible for the crash was defective or disregarded the safety of others when it sold it, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The trial court's ruling was affirmed by a three-member panel of the appeals court earlier this year.

In a 9-3 vote Tuesday, however, the full court of appeals restored the punitive damages and denied Doncasters' request for a new trial.

"It's our clients' great hope that this verdict will induce [Doncasters] to stop selling this dangerous part so that other families will not experience what they did. They'll never have their children back, but they feel that justice has been served," said Gary Robb, the lawyer for the families of the pilot and four skydivers who participated in the lawsuit.

The family of a fifth skydiver who died in the 2006 crash was not party to the suit. There also were two survivors of the crash

The plaintiffs maintained Doncasters, a Connecticut firm, used a different alloy in a compressor turbine blade than called for by Pratt and Whitney Canada, the manufacturer of the engine used in the DeHavilland Twin Otter that crashed shortly after takeoff from Sullivan Regional Airport, and hid documents showing the part in question failed performance tests. At the time of the jury award in 2011, the $48 million verdict was believed to be the third-largest ever awarded in an airplane or helicopter crash in Missouri, the Post-Dispatch reported.

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