Lawsuit Over Blue
Angels Jet Crash In S.C. Could Go To Trial By April
By Jim Douglas
February 6, 2012 - On April 21, 2007, a Blue Angels F-18
Hornet jet, Number 6 crashed during the final minutes of
an air show at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in
Beaufort, South Carolina. When the jet crashed it
crashed near George and Shirley Smith’s home, the
landing gear assembly separated from the F-18 and
crashed through the roof of their one story double-wide
The sole fatality was confirmed and identified as the
pilot, Lieutenant Commander Kevin 'Kojak' Davis. The
body of the pilot and the black box were later recovered
and moved to the local coroner's office.
There were eight injuries reported on the ground and damage to a dozens of homes. Investigators reported Lieutenant Commander Davis never lost consciousness and in its final moments likely steered the F-18 in a direction to avoid hitting homes. The Navy received 22 claims totaling $1.8 million in losses in which all claims have been paid on.
time of the incident Mrs. Smith was sleeping and Mr. Smith was
at work. The couple filed a lawsuit (CA: 9:10-CV-2640-CWH)
against the government in October 2010, for $2.45 million in
which they claimed property and personal injury including injury
claims by Mr. Smith associated with emotional distress and
mental disturbance. On Wednesday Assistant United States
Attorney Lee E. Berlinsky filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as
to Smith’s damages.
requested the court to dismiss the suite claiming the Smiths
already accepted a settlement, which relieves the Navy of any
liability for the property damage. U.S. District Judge C. Weston
Houk ordered the parities into mediation and if they could not
reach an agreement, they should be ready for trial no later than
Summary Judgment, Berlinsky stated the United States
acknowledged responsibility for the crash, and the only issues
remaining for trial are the scope and quantum of damages.
The Smiths have alleged property and personal injury claims, including injury claims by Mr. Smith associated with emotional distress and mental disturbance. At the time of the crash, Mr. Smith was at work, and did not witness the crash nor his wife’s reaction to it at the time of the crash. Under South Carolina law, Mr. Smith is not entitled to any damages arising from his wife’s physical or mental suffering since he does not satisfy the requirements of bystander liability.
Mr. Smith is also
not entitled to any damages arising from his own physical or mental
suffering, as he was not physically injured in the accident, and he did
not suffer a compensable physical manifestation of an emotional trauma.
Berlinsky stated the Court should grant summary judgment to the United
States as to Mr. Smith’s damages claims for personal injury, as well as
all dependent economic damages.
husband, George Smith, was at work in a grocery store about one-quarter
mile from his home at the time of the accident. He did not hear the
plane crash, but learned of it from a colleague at work. Mr. Smith was
prevented by police barricades from reaching his home and seeing his
wife until about 10:00 p.m., more than five hours after the crash. When
he did see his wife, she was shaken but not physically injured. Mr.
Smith suffered no burns, smoke-inhalation or other bodily injury at the
time of the accident, and did not seek any medical attention as a
In their Amended
Complaint, Mr. Smith claimed he was entitled to damages for pain,
suffering and inconvenience, physical impairment, fear, mental anguish,
emotional distress, humiliation, fear of loss, illness or injury, as
well as related economic damages.
Mr. Smith’s expert
psychologist, Dr. L. Randolph Waid, examined Mr. Smith on a number of
occasions, and produced a report. Dr. Waid concluded Mr. Smith suffers
from a 5% “impairment to the whole person” due to dysthymic disorder,
reflecting a “low level of depression.”
The principal stressors Dr. Waid identified as contributing to Mr. Smith’s mental condition were: having to move out of their residence and rent another home; concern over his wife’s mental condition; anger over the Government’s delay in providing them with assistance and settling this case; and the need for Mr. Smith to maintain two jobs.
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