Lawsuit Over Blue Angels Jet Crash In S.C. Could Go To Trial By April


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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 mobile home.  

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.

At the 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. 

Berlinsky 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 April 30. 

In the 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. 

Mrs. Smith’s 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 result. 

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.


Prior to this accident, while enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, Mr. Smith suffered a number of physical injuries – including to his knee, shoulder, back and foot – for which he was determined to be 40% disabled, and for which he receives a regular disability benefit from the Government.13 He continues to suffer residual pain from these injuries, none of which are related to the accident.

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