A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury awarded $89 million Tuesday to family members of passengers killed in a Youngstown, Ohio, plane crash and a survivor, finding that the manufacturer of the plane's engine had concealed information about a faulty carburetor that caused the crash.
The six-seat Piper Cherokee, built in 1968, crashed shortly after takeoff following a refueling stop in Youngstown in 1999, killing Lendon Pridgen, 53, and his stepson, Anthony Cipparone, 15, both of Collegeville; Kenneth Tubman, 47, of Lower Providence, Pridgen's friend and a fellow chemist at SmithKline Beecham; and Daniel Diggen, 56, of Chester, Md. Tyler Johnson, 15, the only survivor, was severely injured.
Tubman's family did not bring suit in the case, which had been winding its way through Pennsylvania courts for the last 10 years.
The state Supreme Court twice rejected arguments by the lawyer for the manufacturer that the claims were barred under a statute severely limiting negligence lawsuits for defects in airplanes more than 18 years old.
The manufacturer, Lycoming Engines of Williamsport, Pa., did not respond to calls for comment.
Preliminary reports by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the plane was near its maximum weight limit when it took off, and that much of its weight was distributed toward the back, making for difficult operating conditions.
But Arthur Wolk, a well-known Philadelphia-based plaintiffs' lawyer who focuses on plane crashes, said the cause of the crash was a faulty carburetor. Wolk, who brought the case, said Lycoming Engines had long been aware of the defect but had failed to notify the Federal Aviation Administration.
The verdict by the 11-member jury came after a two-week trial. The jury awarded $25 million in compensatory and $64 million in punitive damages.