Amount of settlement: $1.7 million
An aircraft manufacturer designed and sold fixed-wing aircraft between 1960 and 1995. The pilot seat was designed with aluminum rails to allow for adjustment. The seat was designed to vertically engage steel pins into the aluminum seat rails. Plaintiffs’ counsel claimed that the combination of aluminum and steel caused the rails to wear, resulting in the pilot seat slipping. Several accidents, including fatalities, occurred over a 20-year period in connection with the design defect.
The group was flying in at Katama Airfield on Martha’s Vineyard on June 23, 2005. As the pilot was attempting to land, another aircraft was preparing to take off, which caused the pilot to abort his landing and attempt a go-around. As he began that maneuver, the seat allegedly slipped, causing him to lose control and crash. After an initial settlement of claims against other defendants, plaintiffs’ counsel pursued the claims against the aircraft manufacturer.
The case was complicated by issues involving pre- and post-accident remedial repairs of secondary seat stops designed to prevent aft movement of the seat. Another issue related to the fact that the pilot was taking Lexapro for depression, which at the time was a prohibited substance that had not been disclosed to his flight physician when he applied to get his license renewal. The case was tried for three weeks before the defendant agreed to the plaintiffs’ demands. The pilot’s case continued at trial and settled the following week.