Parker-Hannifin 'Shakedown' Over
As previously detailed in
ANN, Parker-Hannifin has been fighting a bizarre legal
battle in which they have been held responsible (in part) for the
deaths of 3 people who's plane crashed... even though no product of
Parker-Hannifin's has actually been found to have failed. The
accident that started this intense legal battle took the life of
Gov. Mel Carnahan, his son and an aide.
Since NTSB investigative reports were not admissible in this
long-winded and expensive civil action (and since such actions do
not demand the same burden of proof needed in criminal
proceedings... only the ability to convince the majority of
a jury), Parker-Hannifin was successfully sued for (a portion
of) a $4 million award on behalf of Carnahan's widow, Jean, and her
surviving children -- Robin, Thomas and Russell.
The accident changed the American political landscape. When the
unpressurized twin-engine Cessna 335 went down, Carnahan was
running for the Senate seat held by Republican John Ashcroft and
actually went on to win the election -- posthumously. Mrs. Carnahan
was appointed to the Senate until the next election, but lost her
seat in 2002 to a Republican challenger.
Randy Carnahan was in
command of the flight and while he was obviously having problems
with a primary attitude instrument (not made by Parker), he
admitted to having functioning primary and secondary attitude
reference on other part so the panel (the aircraft was equipped
with a copilot's AI).
None-the-less, the aircraft apparently went down after
experiencing a loss of control. The accident was later ruled
to have resulted from pilot error (primarily) by the NTSB,
after an extensive, politically-tinged investigation.
Early in 2004, a civil
jury found Cleveland based Parker Hannifin Corp. liable for $4
million, but rejected huge additional claims for punitive damages
(which were claimed at upwards of 100 million dollars).
Despite the NTSB's finding that no P-H component failed or was
directly contributory to the accident, well-known Aviation
litigator Gary Robb (pictured right) successfully argued an
aggressive case alleging that "faulty" vacuum pumps failed and
created the contributed to the fatal accident.
While Robb and the Carnahan family made noises about an appeal,
a recent statement by Robb seems to indicate that this legal battle
is finally over... "We believe justice was served," said Robb.
The aftermath of the case has become a rallying cry for
continued efforts to enact aggressive tort reform. Since there is
no physical evidence, whatsoever, pinning Parker-Hannifin to any
aspect of the crash, many see Robb's limited victory as a triumph
of emotionalism over legal fact and a stunning reason to demand
legal reforms to prevent similar verdicts from reoccurring.