The pilot of a Beechcraft was forced to crash-land in a vineyard because the engine came apart in cruise flight. His 44-year-old passenger suffered serious head injuries.
Government investigators concluded that the engine came apart because the mechanic who performed the last cylinder change failed to tighten crucial hold-down nuts. The mechanic, who was not licensed by the FAA, insisted he had performed the repairs precisely according to the instructions in the engine manufacturer’s repair manual.
We had our experts examine the engine. In one critical area, we found a tiny amount of sealant about half the size of a pea. The sealant should not have been there. We determined that even a very small amount of sealant in the wrong place could cause the nuts to loosen. The mechanic had applied the sealant because he was misled by confusing wording in the engine repair manual.
The manufacturer claimed that the mechanic misunderstood the wording only because he was untrained and unlicensed. The manufacturer’s lawyers insisted that, if the wording was truly unclear, other mechanics would have made the same mistake, but they hadn’t. But we had already discovered documents that the manufacturer had purged from its files that demonstrated that even properly licensed mechanics had — in numerous previous cases — applied sealant in the wrong spot, all because the manual was poorly worded.
After five weeks of trial, the jury agreed that the manufacture’s poorly-chosen language in the engine repair manual had contributed to the crash. The plaintiff was awarded almost $15 million, enough to take care of his needs for the rest of his life.