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An Arkansas jury has awarded $11 million to an aspiring opera singer whose voice box was permanently damaged in the crash of an American Airlines flight in 1999. The singer, Kristen Maddox, contended that the crash ruined her chance at a career in music, said her attorney, Robert R. Bodoin, of Arlington, Texas’ Hill Gilstrap. She also suffered severe burns on both hands. At the trial, American Airlines disputed as speculative Maddox’s claim that she would have had a lucrative professional career. But after the verdict, the airline announced that it had no plans to contest the jury’s award, noted defense counsel Spence Fricke of Little Rock, Ark.’s The Barber Firm. MIDNIGHT CRASH Maddox was injured when an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Tex., to Little Rock crashed at Little Rock National Airport just before midnight on June 1, 1999. “The plane attempted to land in a thunderstorm” but went off the runway, broke apart and caught fire, Bodoin said. Eleven people died, and more than 100 were injured. Maddox, then 22, was a senior at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., who performed classical opera and contemporary Christian music, Bodoin said. The fire caused permanent damage and scarring to her vocal chords, as well as damage to the airways of her lungs, leaving her unable to sing, he said. Maddox and numerous other survivors and the estates of those killed in the crash sued American Airlines. Her claim was the first to go to trial, but liability was not at issue in this trial, according to Fricke, who said, “The only issue was damages.” Maddox v. American Airlines Inc., No. 4:00C401358W (E.D. Ark.). Maddox “was a star college performer who could have been another Maria Callas,” claimed Bodoin. American Airlines countered that Maddox had a decent voice but that there was no indication she wanted a career as a professional opera singer or would have become successful if she had pursued one. Fricke noted that “in her deposition and testimony, she focused on her intentions to teach.” The airline also produced a former opera singer who contended that Maddox’s voice was too light for opera. The airline, however, did not dispute that Maddox was owed substantial damages and suggested to the jury an award of $3.6 million. To maximize the damages awarded by the jury, said Bodoin, the plaintiff’s side focused not on the lost potential earnings, but on her lost capacity. “We were able to prove that she had the voice, the instrument, to succeed,” he said. The plaintiff’s team hired Aristotle Productions in Little Rock to prepare audio and visual tapes of Maddox’s performances, starting with childhood recordings. Bodoin said that he would use these CDs and videos with every witness, so the jury could hear her voice before the accident. These witnesses included voice professionals who testified, he said, “that she had an incredible quality to her voice.” He also used the recordings in his examination of Maddox, playing the music and “asking her to describe the songs she enjoyed singing.” This went beyond promoting the loss of possible earnings as a singer, but her loss of her own enjoyment of her abilities, he said. On Aug. 24, the Little Rock jury awarded Maddox $11.02 million. American Airlines issued a statement that “at this time, we have no plans to appeal.”

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