Kansas City
Over $1 Billion in Verdicts and Recoveries
$27 Million Settlement in Skydivers' Plane Crash
Joe Lambe
The Kansas City Star

A Jackson County judge on Thursday approved a $ 27.5 million settlement for families of the pilot and five sky divers killed in a Grain Valley plane crash. 

Engine manufacturer Teledyne Continental Motors of Mobile, Ala., is to divide the money equally among the six families. The company admitted no fault in the settlement.  

Circuit Judge J.D. Williamson approved the settlement after hearing from members of four families. Lawyers said it will become final soon after members of the other two families testify. The checks are to be paid by May 11.  

Lawyers said the $27.5 million was among the nation's largest pretrial settlements in the crash of a small plane.  

Plaintiff attorney Gary C. Robb said a separate contractual agreement with the company, involving engine overhaul manuals, was more important to his clients than the money. Teledyne pledged to revise the manuals.  

"From the beginning our clients wanted to remedy the engine problem," Robb said. "They have succeeded."  

The company denies any engine problem.  

Robb, who represented the four families at the Thursday hearing, said the March 21, 1998, crash happened because badly designed oil transfer tubes failed and starved the engine of oil.  

Smoke and flames billowed from the Cessna engine as the pilot tried to land at Grain Valley Airport. The plane clipped a tree, cart-wheeled to the ground and burst into flames. All aboard died.  

Robb said his review of the company records found 14 other cases of engine failure caused by such oil tube failures. The records only go back to the mid-1980s, though the company made engines with the faulty tubes from 1945 to 1995, Robb said. The engines went into small planes made by many different companies, Robb said.  

"Who knows how many other engine failures and deaths resulted because of this," Robb said after the hearing.

Robert W.Cotter, attorney for the company disagreed with Robb. He said the oil tubes did not cause the engine failures. He admitted no liability.  

Separate from the legal settlement, the four families received letters from Cotter Thursday. In them, the company pledged to change its printed and web site overhaul manuals to tell mechanics and owners to inspect the oil transfer tubes.  

Cotter said he would not comment on letters that were separate from the settlement. Robb said the pledge is part of a legally binding contract.  

Members of the four families said they never would have agreed to the settlement without the letters.  

Judi Rudder of Oskaloosa,Kan., widow of skydiver Marion Rudder, said the families quickly agreed on two things - a required warning and an even split of any settlement.  

"Our whole mission on this was to keep people safe," she said. "We knew together we could make a bigger difference, and we wanted to be fair."  

Brad Buckley of Independence, and the son of sky diver Kenney Buckley, said he lost a father and did not want others to lose loved ones.  

Other members of the greater Kansas City Skydiving Club who died were Eric Rueff, John Schuman and Julie Douglass. The pilot, David Snyder, also died in the crash. The Snyder and Douglass families are to appear at later hearings to finalize the settlement.  

Belinda Schuman of Lawrence, widow of John Schuman, said the families want to make it clear that a plane crash - not a skydiving accident - killed their loved ones.  

Her husband loved skydiving and had made 2,300 jumps, she said. "We got married on the anniversary day of his first jump; he said he'd always remember that date."   

Another defendant, Jewell Aircraft Inc. of Holly Springs, Miss., settled the case previously for $1 million, which also was equally divided among the six families. The company which admitted no wrongdoing, did an engine overhaul on the Cessna 10 years ago.  

Robb said he probably would drop the case against several other defendants that include Whuffo III Inc., the owner of the plane; Freeflight Aviation Inc., an aircraft maintenance company; and White Industries, a company that sold the engine.  

His investigation, Robb said, also answered the key question of why the sky divers did not jump out of the plane.  

When the pilot first radioed at 3,000 feet that he heard an engine noise, he called off the jump and started to land, Robb said, but by the time the engine burst into flames it was too low for anyone to jump.  

Judi Rudder said the question of why no one jumped had troubled her.  

"They just didn't know it was going to be that bad," she said. "They thought they could get down safely."

« Back to News & Media

The firm's lawyers are proud to be members of:
Telephone: 816-474-8080
Facsimile: 816-474-8081
Toll-Free: 1-800-474-1339
Nationwide practice in states including:
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina

Personal Injury Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

Personal injury attorneys can also assist with industrial disease cases that may include respiratory diseases or a decline in health due to hazardous occupational conditions. These and other medical cases are often very complex, and it is advised that all aspects of the claim be handled by an experienced attorney.

Wrongful Death Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Robb & Robb LLC One Kansas City Place, Suite 3900 - 1200 Main Street , Kansas City , Missouri 64105

Telephone: 816-474-8080 Facsimile: 816-474-8081 Toll-Free: 1-800-474-1339