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$28 million punitive award restored in Missouri plane crash suit

The families of five people who died in a plane crash in Franklin County, Missouri, in 2006 will split a punitive award of $28 million as well as compensatory damages of $20 million. A jury awarded the families the damages in April 2011 in the lawsuit against Doncasters, Inc., a Connecticut airplane parts manufacturer.

The plane, a DeHavilland Twin Otter, crashed almost immediately after taking off from Sullivan Regional Airport. Six people died in the crash, but the family of one of the victims was not a member of the lawsuit. There were also two survivors of the airplane accident.

The judge hearing the case, however, took the punitive damages away because he said there was no evidence that Doncasters, Inc., knew there was a defective part or that the company showed disregard for the safety of others. The plaintiffs in the case appealed the judge's ruling, but the appeals court agreed with the lower court. The Missouri Court of Appeals, however, did not. It restored the punitive damages, leaving the $48 million verdict intact.

The plaintiffs' attorneys presented evidence at trial that the parts manufacturer did not use the correct material in a compressor turbine blade, which is part of the plane's engine. The engine manufacturer, Pratt and Whitney Canada, did not approve the material that Doncasters, Inc., used to manufacture the part. In addition, the plaintiffs' attorneys also provided evidence that Doncasters, Inc., allegedly hid documentation showing that the compressor turbine blade failed testing. When Doncasters, Inc., appealed, their attorneys claimed the plaintiffs' experts were not qualified and the jury heard testimony that it should not have been allowed to hear.

Determining the cause of an aviation accident can be very difficult. If you have lost a loved one due to an airplane accident, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options. You want to ensure your rights are protected as you find the answers you need.

Source:  stltoday.com, "Families of 5 who died in Missouri plane crash to get $28 million in punitive damages" Jennifer Mann, May. 07, 2013

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