Johnson v. Pratt & Whitney
Helicopter Crash: Marine Corps Pilots
Plaintiff Attorney: Brian J. Panish
Jeffrey Davidson (Kirkland & Ellis), Los Angeles
Mary Blodgett(Kirkland & Ellis), Los Angeles
Trial Judge: Jack K. Mandel – Santa Ana | 8/12/92
Trial Time: 6 days
Deliberation Time: 1 day
Insurance Co: Association of Aviation Underwriters
Case: Johnson/Riggs vs. Pratt-Whitney | 54 03 89
Decedents were United States Marine Corps pilots (Plaintiff #1, 1st Lieutenant, age 26, and Plaintiff #2, Major, age 35). Decedents were on training flight in an AH-1T COBRA Helicopter from Camp Pendleton when the engine caught fire and crashed near Cleveland National Forest. Helicopter engines were manufactured by Pratt-Whitney of Canada for the United States Military.
Injuries:Fatal, 26 year old son; Fatal, 35 year old father.
Loss of Earnings:
Plaintiff #2: $2,200,000 past/$2,900,000 future
Plaintiffs claimed engine failure resulted from defectively manufactured fuel nozzle which cracked. Defendant had similar failure in commercial engines but concealed information from the United States Government. Defendants had given warning to all civilian operators of engines with the same fuel nozzles.
Defendant argued they were barred from arguing comparative negligence against the Military, Bell Helicopters, or the plaintiffs. The Court ordered that when summary adjudication was imposed, it was absolute. Therefore, Defendants could only argue pure damages.
Demand: $1,350,000 (per §998), withdrawn at trial.
Verdict: Plaintiff #1: $692,081;
Plaintiff #2: 6,089,684.
Plaintiff’s counsel undertook enormous discovery which resulted in substantial monetary sanctions against Defendants and more than fifteen law and motion hearings. Eventually, the Court imposed issue and evidence sanctions against the Defendants. Plaintiff’s motions for summary adjudication as to liability were granted.
Jury Poll: 11-1 as to various parties
Plaintiff Experts: Formuzis, Peter | Economist – Santa Ana
Defense Experts: Fractor, David | Economist – Los Angeles
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