What are the details of this Cessna crash and lawsuit?

I’ve referenced a few times on the board, the lawsuit that killed General Aviation. I remember reading about it when it happened. I remember when Cessna stopped building piston singles in 1986 after they lost a lawsuit. I remember reading about the plaintiffs’ lawyer in one of the aviation magazines. But I can’t remember the details now.

What I recall, which may not be accurate after 30 years, is that a married couple flew a Cessna into a thunderstorm and crashed as a result. I believe both occupants were instrument-rated, and I think they were both CFIs. The NTSB made a thorough investigation and determined that the engine was not at fault. Nevertheless, Lycoming was made to pay millions of dollars because a jury decided the engine was at fault. Cessna got hit harder. The figure I have in my head is $40 million. It could have been forty-something million. I don’t know if that was the total settlement, or just Cessna’s part. I think the accident aircraft was a 172, and I think the plaintiffs’ lawyer was based in Florida. I don’t remember where the crash happened.

I’m finding a $26 million lawsuit agains Lycoming, but that’s from a crash in 2008. I’m finding information on the crash of a 208 Caravan in 1983, but I’m pretty certain the accident aircraft was a 172 (or possibly a 182). I’d like to find out when and where this particular crash happened, and who the lawyer was who won the jackpot for his clients. (No, I’m not going to stalk him. I just want to see if he pops up in any of the documentaries I watch.) Can anyone help?

There wasn’t just one big lawsuit against Cessna in the 1980s, but a slew of them. I didn’t find one that sounds like what you describe. The highest jury award I found was $29.3 million for a fatal crash on June 2, 1980, in Lower Township or Cape May, New Jersey, piloted by Keith E. Harper. http://www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/brief.aspx?ev_id=32116&key=0 The award came down in federal court in Camden County in June 1984.

There was a $42 million suit against Cessna over the death of Yankees’ catcher Thurman Munson in Ohio, but he was flying a Cessna Citation jet and the suit was settled out of court, probably for a lot less money.

At least one of suits was over a forty year old airframe that was modified, but Cub was found responsible anyway.

OP specifically asked about Cessna crashes and aftermath; a Cub is now a Piper product. It was never a Cessna product.

Different obscene jury award.

IIRC, there is a long story behind how Piper got the rights to the Cub.

I thought it might have relevance to the question, as that’s the one I am familiar with (through the long rants of a pilot co-worker). IIRC, the plane had plywood panels replacing some structural panels - or some such abortion that was in no possible way the maker’s fault.

Not really. William Piper was an investor in Taylor Aircraft in 1928. Taylor went bankrupt in 1930, and Piper bought the assets. Piper bought out Taylor in 1935, Taylor started another company, and Piper Aircraft was formed in 1937 after moving to Lock Haven.

It occurred to me that maybe the crash was a Beechcraft; but I remember a huge settlement against Cessna, and Beechcraft used Continental engines. I’m fairly sure of what details there are in the OP, but I’d sure like to be able to provide Citations. (Heh.)

The magazine article with the lawyer… I get the image of a blue Grumman fighter, possibly an F9F Panther. Maybe it belonged to the lawyer?

That’s all I could find also.

Except now, the story changes. :slight_smile:

I’ll look more

As I recall, this was the era of “you invented it, it’s yours to do with as you please”, and the designer of the Cub was shopping it around - Taylor was its second buyer, IIRC.

Good old Piper - he thought he was in good shape - he came out of the war with enough chrome-alloy tubing to meet the big demand of returning military pilots.

Then everybody wanted all-Al planes, and Piper was stuck making tube and fabric into the 60’s.

The J-3 Cub was designed by Walter Jamouneau (hence, the ‘J’ in ‘J-3’).

Tube-and-fabric planes were still pretty common after the war and into the '50s. Taildraggers, too; which is why they have ‘conventional’ gear. But Cessna’s tricycle-gear, all-metal 172 (introduced as 1956 year model, currently in production) was selling like hotcakes and the tricycle-gear, tube-and-fabric Piper PA-22 Tri-Pacer (1950-1964) looked dated next to it. (I’ve always thought they looked like flying milk stools.) Now, I’m a big fan of Cessna airplanes; but Piper’s PA-28 Cherokee (1960 - present) is, I think, a much more stylish airplane. They may have been late, but the Cherokee was a hit. :slight_smile:

I’m going to need some help reading the report. Usually I read the longer report. If I’m reading correctly, there were three fatalities and one serious injury. (Crew, 1 fatal; passengers, 2 fatal, 1 serious.) I’m pretty sure the case I have in mind only had two people aboard, both of whom suffered fatal injuries. I’m not sure where it happened, but I think it was around Oklahoma or Texas. That region, anyway; though I’m not sure.

There was a $480 million jury award against Cessna in Florida in 2001 (of which $400m was punitive damages), but that was related to a defective seat latching system and involved a 185.

Yeah, the seat rails was a big one. The crash I’m thinking of happened before The Great Hiatus.