A Missouri appeals court affirmed a $48 million verdict for the families of the victims of a 2006 airplane crash in Sullivan where six people were killed.
In 2011, a jury in Franklin County returned a $48 million verdict in the case, including a $28 million punitive award. The plaintiffs argued that an aftermarket parts dealer used a substandard alloy to make the plane’s blade which caused the crash.
But after trial, Franklin County Circuit Judge Gael Wood dismissed the punitive damage awards.
The Court of Appeals earlier affirmed that decision in January, ruling that the only evidence of the defendant’s knowledge of the substandard blades rested on speculation.
But on Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District, sitting en banc, reversed that ruling holding that the plaintiffs had made a submissible case for punitive damages. It also affirmed the $20 million in compensatory damages.
The court ordered the case be remanded back to the trial court to reinstate the $28 million in punitive damages.
The crash occurred shortly after takeoff. The group was planning to skydive. Six of the eight people aboard died in the crash. Another passenger died later from injuries sustained in the crash.
Expert witnesses testified that because the blades had never passed a federal endurance test, the manufacturer, Doncasters Inc., “had to know” that the blades were defective. A representative of the company, however, testified that the company didn’t learn of the defect until years after they were sold.
Plaintiffs in the case, which developed into a number of cases, are relatives of the victims of the crash and the lone survivor.
The Franklin County jury verdict involved wrongful death claims from the families of five of the crash victims: Victoria Delacroix, Melissa Berridge, Robert Cook, Robert Walsh and Scott Cowan.
The $48 million verdict is believed to be the third largest ever awarded in a Missouri airplane or helicopter crash.