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Two victims of a 1999 aircraft crash represented by a Center City litigator have been awarded a total of nearly $55 million by a jury in a Florida state court. The two men � one a flight student, the other his instructor � both survived the crash, but claimed the severe physical and psychological injuries they had suffered dashed any hope of a future in the aviation industry, according to their attorney, Arthur Wolk of the Wolk Law Firm in Philadelphia. The plaintiffs in Godfrey v. Precision Airmotive Corp. alleged that the manufacturers of the carburetor and engine in the 1973 Cessna they were piloting at the time of the crash had for decades been aware of problematic interplay between their products. Both manufacturing defendants were found liable by the jury, who also concluded that the municipal airport maintenance company responsible for the aircraft was not at fault for the crash. In court papers, the manufacturer defendants suggested that the maintenance defendant was to blame for the accident. The case was tried earlier this month in Daytona Beach before Volusia County Circuit Court Judge Richard S. Graham. According to court papers in Godfrey, the crash occurred during a late-night flight in July 1999 not long after the Cessna had taken off from Ormond Beach Municipal Airport. Investigators later determined that engine failure had caused the Cessna’s forced landing. Occupying the aircraft at the time were flight student Mark Godfrey and flight instructor Nicholas Grace. Wolk said Godfrey, a United Kingdom national, was in his early 20s at the time; Grace, a Florida resident, was in his early 30s. Grace’s injuries resulted in his being fitted with a prosthetic jaw, while Godfrey also suffered broken bones in his face, including both cheekbones, according to Wolk, whose co-counsel in the case was Terence Perkins of Smith Hood Perkins Loucks Stout Bigman Lane & Brock in Daytona Beach. In their complaint, the pair named as defendants Precision Airmotive, the Everett, Wash.-based manufacturer of the Cessna’s carburetor; Teledyne Inc., the southern California-based parent company of the aircraft’s engine’s manufacturer; and Ormond Beach Municipal Airport’s maintenance company. The complaint accused Precision and Teledyne of having known as early as the 1960s of problems associated with their products’ use in aircrafts like the one piloted by the plaintiffs on the day of the crash. Godfrey and Grace further asserted that the manufacturers concealed their knowledge of the situation, choosing not to notify federal aviation authorities or alert individual operators via industry publications. Precision responded in court papers that the National Transportation Safety Board report filed in the wake of the July 1999 crash never indicated that the carburetor had played a role in the crash. Teledyne maintained in court papers that it had neither installed nor maintained the carburetor used in the Cessna at issue. F. Bradley Hassell of Hassell Moorhead & Carroll in Daytona Beach, who represented the airport maintenance defendant, said that as the trial in Godfrey approached, the manufacturer defendants began to focus on the Cessna’s allegedly shoddy upkeep. Precision has been defended in the matter by Lester Kaney of Cobb & Cole in Daytona Beach; Teledyne, by attorneys from Knoblock Kim Coxhead & Penton in Miami. Neither firm immediately responded to a call seeking comment on the case. According to Hassell and Wolk, the trial began July 16 and ended July 26. The six-member jury’s verdict was unanimous, they said. The verdict sheet reflects that the jury found Precision more liable than Teledyne. Precision’s liability was apportioned at 70 percent, Teledyne’s, at 30 percent. Godfrey’s portion of the compensatory damages award was for more than $21 million, $20 million of which was for pain and suffering. Grace came away from the compensatory damages verdict with roughly $32.2 million, $30 million of which was for pain and suffering. Hassell said the jurors had deliberated for roughly four hours before returning their compensatory damages verdict. The verdict sheet shows that the Godfrey jurors were only permitted to consider punitive damages as to Precision. After an hour’s deliberations, according to Hassell, they returned with a punitive damages award of $1.5 million. Wolk said the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses included materials scientist Richard McSwain of Pensacola, who explained to the jury how the carburetor and engine’s interplay led to the engine failure; and aircraft accident re-constructionist Donald Sommer of Broomfield, Colo., who testified about the history of problems with the manufacturers’ products.

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