Instructor, pilot awarded $53M in Volusia crash
The Orlando Sentinel
July 27, 2007
Original The Orlando Sentinel article: Instructor, pilot awarded $53M in Volusia crash
A flight instructor and a former student pilot won a $53 million jury award against two manufacturers blamed for a 1999 airplane crash that seriously injured the men.
The Volusia jury decided the companies were liable for the Ormond Beach crash of a Cessna 150 because they knew about defects in the carburetor that could cause engine failure, said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Arthur Wolk.
‘It’s recognition by this jury that it’s wrong for an aircraft-component manufacturer to put a component on a plane that they know is likely to cause serious injury or death,’ Wolk said.
‘Airplane crashes don’t result in minor injuries, so this is a life-or-death issue that they did not appropriately address, and two men are maimed for life because of that,’ he said.
In addition, the jury decided the carburetor manufacturer, Precision Airmotive Corp. of Marysville, Wash., should pay an additional $1.5 million in punitive damages because the defect had been reported numerous times during the course of 40 years but wasn’t fixed.
Defense attorneys couldn’t be reached after the verdicts were announced.
The verdicts arrived just a few days after the eight-year anniversary of the plane crash that seriously injured flight instructor Nicholas Grace and student pilot Mark Godfrey.
The men were flying a Cessna 150 on the night of July 24, 1999, when the engine failed, causing the plane to crash nose-first near the Ormond Beach airport. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that an exhaust valve got stuck, which caused a loss in engine power, according to a federal accident database.
Wolk said the evidence showed the carburetor tended to run very rich, causing the engine to become overloaded with fuel, which then can cause the valves to stick.
The crash left both men with extensive injuries, including facial fractures and brain injuries. According to the verdict, Grace was awarded $32 million, while Godfrey was awarded $21 million. The carburetor manufacturer must pay 70 percent of the verdict, while the engine manufacturer, Teledyne Technologies Inc., is 30 percent liable.
The Cessna 150 plane involved in the 1999 crash is a different model from the Cessna 310R that recently crashed in a Sanford neighborhood. A Cessna spokesman said the 310R model is a twin-engine, high-performance plane, while the 150 model is a single-engine, two-seater plane used for training purposes.
‘It’s like likening a Ford SUV crash to the problems the Pinto had,’ Doug Oliver said Thursday. ‘They’re both Ford cars, but you’re talking about two completely different products and completely different circumstances.’
Denise-Marie Balona of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at 386-253-0964 or firstname.lastname@example.org.