The Law Office of Kurt H King

May 22, 2013

New Opinion Affirming Award of Punitive Damages in Delacroix v. Doncasters

As of May 7, 2013, the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals handed down a revised opinion in appeal ED97375, a case captioned Delacroix v. Doncasters which addressed the level of proof necessary for an award of punitive damages in an aircraft product liability case in Missouri.

This court’s first slip opinion issued January 2013 in appeal ED97375 affirmed the trial court’s decision to disavow the jury’s award of $28 million in punitive damages to the plaintiffs who were killed in the crash of the sky diving plane fitted with defective blades sold on the market by a company later purchased by defendant Doncasters.

But the court’s second opinion dated May 7, 2013, turned about to fully uphold the jury’s award of punitive damages.

In reaching its final conclusion that the plaintiffs did in fact sufficiently prove their case for an award of punitive damages, the court stated that plaintiffs in a strict liability products case must present clear and convincing evidence that the defendant placed in commerce an unreasonably dangerous product with actual knowledge of the defect, and that by doing so acted with conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others.  The court defines “clear and convincing” as being evidence sufficient to permit a reasonable juror to conclude with convincing clarity the truth of the proposition sought to be proven.  These standards and definitions may seem a bit circular and hazy but it seems that the court “knows one when it sees it.”

Here the evidence presented by the plaintiffs to justify punitive damages included expert testimony based on documents produced by the defendant that the blades never passed the FAA tests for durability of the engine prop blades that failed to cause the crash that killed the sky divers, and that the manufacturer knew of the failure but nevertheless made and sold the blades anyway–a mind-boggling mistake.  The blades failed two durability tests and never passed the test in the engine for which they were manufactured.  This the manufacturer knew before the sale of the blades involved in this case.  Not only did the original manufacturer know the blades failed, but so did defendant Doncasters, the purchaser of the manufacturing company.  Despite admitted knowledge of the sale of defective blades, defendant Doncasters never recalled or issued warnings to purchasers of the defective blades.

While a dissenter  wrote against the decision on this appeal, the reasoning of the block of justices upholding the award of punitive damages to plaintiffs rests on solid ground.

Kurt H. King

Law Office of Kurt H. King, 20 E. Franklin, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri 64068

816.781.6000

http://www.kurthking.com

Litigation–Personal Injury, Workers’ Compensation, and General Matters

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: