Jury Awards Pilot’s Family $10 Million in Wrongful Death Case – Agreement Will Limit Recovery to $4 Million

The Miami Herald is reporting that an Ontario widow and her seven children will receive $4 million following a verdict for $10 million rendered by a Miami-Dade jury. The verdict ends a wrongful death lawsuit that alleged the engine on Derek Anthony Leung’s plane had not been properly repaired before the crash in which he was killed.

Certified Engines Unlimited, Inc. was ordered to pay for negligently “failing to properly inspect, service and repair the aircraft, and for failing to warn the pilot and owner of any defects about which the firm should have known, according to the plaintiff’s complaint.” (MiamiHerald.com 2/14/06)Personal Injury Lawyer 

Mr. Leung ran a commercial air charter service transporting workers and equipment to the gold mines of Guyana. He and a passenger were killed in August 1998, when the engine on his Cessna U206 aircraft failed. The plane crashed in the Guyanese jungle.

Leung had sent parts of his engine to Certified Engines Unlimited for repair.

The attorney for Mr. Leung’s widow, Valerie Leung, argued that while doing the repairs, mechanics at Certified Engines Unlimited had accidentally overheated the engine, cracking two of its six cylinders. The mechanics then tried to cover up what had happened by replacing several engine parts without telling anyone about the mishap.

A complete description of any work performed on a plane is required to be kept according to federal aviation regulations.

The engine, which had been kept by Certified for at least three years, was examined by experts retained by Leung’s attorneys. They were able to trace fractures found in the engine to the time when it was still in Certified’s possession.

Certified argued that it would never have kept an engine for as long as Leung claimed. A 1998 tornado, however, destroyed any business records that might have proved Certified had, in fact, returned the engine earlier.

The jury rejected Certified’s defense and returned a $10 million verdict in less than four hours.

A previous “high-low” agreement made before trial will limit the recovery to $4 million (Certified was insured for $5 million).  There can be no appeal of the award, attorneys said.

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