Over $975 Million in Verdicts and Recoveries Over $975 Million in Verdicts and Recoveries
Barnett v. Turbomeca S.A.: Maker of Defective Helicopter Pays Damages to Family of Dead Pilot
Kansas City Star

4/29/1998

The manufacturer of a defective helicopter Tuesday paid more than $40 million and ended a lawsuit by the family of a Life Flight pilot killed in a 1993 crash.

The payout came after a Jackson County Circuit Court lawsuit resulted in a jury award of $350 million to the Atchison, Kan., family of James Barnett Jr. It was among the largest such verdicts in the nation.

Last fall, a state appeals court reduced the judgment to $30 million. The manufacturer, Turbomeca S.A. of France, paid that amount on Tuesday and $10.5 million in interest.

While flying an accident victim to St. Luke's Hospital, Barnett's Life Flight ambulance crashed in a DeKalb County cornfield near Cameron, Mo.

Both jurors and the appeals court called Turbomeca's behavior reprehensible.

A company official testified that it would have cost $48 million to recall the helicopters.

The manufacturer of a defective helicopter Tuesday paid more than $40 million and ended a lawsuit by the family of a Life Flight pilot killed in a 1993 crash.

The payout came after a Jackson County Circuit Court lawsuit resulted in a jury award of $350 million to the Atchison, Kan., family of James Barnett Jr. It was among the largest such verdicts in the nation.

Last fall, a state appeals court reduced the judgment to $30 million. The manufacturer, Turbomeca S.A. of France, paid that amount on Tuesday and $10.5 million in interest.

While flying an accident victim to St. Luke's Hospital, Barnett's Life Flight ambulance crashed in a DeKalb County cornfield near Cameron, Mo.

Both jurors and the appeals court called Turbomeca's behavior reprehensible.

A company official testified that it would have cost $48 million to recall the helicopters.

Douglas N. Ghertner, Turbomeca's attorney, declined to comment Tuesday.      

Another Jackson County jury awarded $70 million to the family of Sherry Ann Letz, the patient killed in the crash.  An appeals court reduced that to $29 million last fall, and the case is now before the Missouri  Supreme Court.      

As part of Tuesday's payment, Missouri received a check for $4.7 million of the punitive damages.  A state law requires a percentage of such awards go to the state.      

Family members receiving judgment money were the victim's wife, Juya Barnett; their son Jessie, 19; their daughter Mia, 17; and James Barnett's parents, James Barnett Sr. and Wanda Barnett.      

Juya Barnett said she would use some of the award to create a James S. Barnett Jr. memorial trust fund for improving helicopter safety.      

She said, "My children and I just want to go on with our lives.  We miss Jim terribly."




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