Missouri Jury Awards $48 Million In Plane Crash Case

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A jury awarded $20 million in compensatory damages plus $28 million in punitive damages to the families of five people killed in a plane crash. Defendant Doncasters, Inc. was found to have sold a defective engine part and to have misled the FAA. Delacroix v. Doncasters, Inc., Circuit Court of Franklin County, Mo. Case No. 06AB-CC00233

"The families want that defective engine part removed from the market and we believe that will occur," said lead trial attorney Gary C. Robb

A jury in Franklin County, Missouri awarded $48 million to the families of five (5) people killed in a plane crash. The jury heard evidence for three (3) weeks about the crash of a DeHavilland Twin Otter airplane that occurred on July 29, 2006 at the Sullivan Regional Airport. The right engine blew up shortly after take-off and the plane crashed moments later, according to court documents. The case is Delacroix v. Doncasters Inc., Circuit Court of Franklin County, Mo., Case No. 06AB-CC00233.

Gary C. Robb, lead Plaintiffs' attorney from the Kansas City Missouri law firm of Robb & Robb LLC, told the jury that the crash was due to a defective engine part made by Connecticut aftermarket manufacturer, Doncasters, Inc. "The part that broke and caused the engine to fail was a compressor turbine (CT) blade," said Robb. Robb said his team presented overwhelming evidence that the part was bad because it used a different alloy material than that called for by the engine manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, Canada.

The jury of 7 women and 5 men heard many days of testimony from aircrash investigators, metallurgists, and aircraft design engineers. The jury also heard that all five deceased were aware that the plane was going to crash and experienced pre-impact terror for 52 seconds. According to court documents the deceased were:

Victoria Delacroix, 22, of London, England
Melissa Berridge, 38, of St. Louis, Missouri
Robert Cook, 22, of Rolla, Missouri
Rob Walsh, 44, of St. Louis, Missouri
Scott Cowan, 42, of St. Louis, Missouri

Court documents stated that Cowan was the pilot of the plane being used for skydiving operations. The jury heard testimony that Robert Cook used his body as a cushion to absorb the impact for a tandem first-time skydiver, and that woman survived the crash and has now married and recently had a baby. Berridge was employed at the time of her death as compliance officer for the senate campaign of U.S. Senator Clarie McCaskill of Missouri.

The jury first decided after two weeks of evidence that each family was entitled to $4 million in compensatory damages for the death of their family member. Following additional testimony in a punitive damages phase, the jury added another $28 million to punish Doncasters for reckless conduct. "This company misled and manipulated the FAA into obtaining approval of this aircraft engine part," said Robb.

He called an FAA certification officer who told the jury that Doncasters hid key documents showing that the part in question failed performance tests. And evidence was presented that eight other engine failures occurred due to the failure of the same part. "The families believe that justice has been done," said Robb. "They want that defective engine part removed from the market and we believe that will occur."

For further information:
For families: Gary C. Robb at (816) 474-8080
For Doncasters, Inc.: Larry Kaplan at (312) 345-3000

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Anita Porte Robb

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