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McKee v. Colt Electronics Co.

decided: May 27, 1988.

MARY L. MCKEE, AS EXECUTRIX UNDER THE WILL OF GORDON N. MCKEE, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
COLT ELECTRONICS CO., INC., THE GARRETT CORPORATION AND LOCKHEED CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS, THE LOCKHEED CORPORATION AND PHOENIX AEROSPACE, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS. THE GARRETT CORPORATION AND LOCKHEED CORPORATION, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS, V. TEXASGULF, INC., AND TEXASGULF AVIATION, INC., THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, after a jury trial before Gerald L. Goettel, Judge, awarding plaintiff compensatory damages and prejudgment interest totalling $3,244,348 for wrongful death. Affirmed. Judge Dorsey Concurs in a separate opinion.

Author: Pratt

PRATT, Circuit Judge:

This appeal from a damage award is part of the litigation that arose out of the 1981 crash at Westchester County Airport of a corporate jet owned by third-party defendants Texasgulf, Inc., and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Texasgulf Aviation, Inc. (collectively, "Texasgulf"). Plaintiff's decedent, Gordon McKee, who was the vice-president/treasurer of Texasgulf, was among the six passengers killed in that crash.

The estates of the crash victims filed suits pursuant to New York's wrongful death statute, N.Y. Est. Powers & Trust Law M 5-4.3 (McKinney 1981), the cases were consolidated, and Judge Goettel presided over two jury trials that were held to resolve affirmative defenses and to determine liability. The factual and procedural histories of these cases are outlined more fully in Woodling v. Garrett Corp., 813 F.2d 543 (2d Cir. 1987); Texasgulf, Inc. v. Colt Electronics Co., 615 F. Supp. 648 (S.D.N.Y. 1984); Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. v. Texasgulf Aviation, Inc., 604 F. Supp. 699 (S.D.N.Y. 1985); Gregory v. Garrett Corp., 589 F. Supp. 296 (S.D. N.Y. 1984), aff'd in part and vacated in part, 813 F.2d 543 (2d Cir. 1987).

The jury found the defendants and third party defendants jointly and severally liable for negligently causing the crash, and apportioned liability as follows: Texasgulf (owned and operated the aircraft), 70%; Garrett Corporation (installed generator control units), 20%; Phoenix Aerospace, Inc. (designed and manufactured generator control units), 5%; and Colt Electronics Co., Inc. (prepared installation drawings), 5%. We upheld that liability verdict in Woodling v. Garrett, 813 F.2d 543. After those issues were resolved, some of the cases settled, and damage trials were held in others, including McKee's.

During the McKee damages trial, plaintiffs introduced evidence to show that McKee was survived by his wife Mary and four children, who were 22, 21, 18 and 14 when he died. Mrs. McKee died prior to trial, but her videotaped deposition was shown to the jury. McKee was an athletic, vigorous man and a devoted father who was actively involved with his children McKee's concern for his children's education was demonstrated by his decision to send them to private school, his service as trustee of the youngest child's school, his commitment to finance their graduate education, and his frequent discussions with the children concerning their educations and careers. In fact, the two older McKee children pursued careers in geology and finance, respectively, fields in which McKee, who was also highly respected in the New York financial community, specialized. The third child has since completed her undergraduate education, and the youngest is now in college.

Both sides presented expert economic testimony on the issues of lost earnings, McKee's personal expenses, and the value of McKee's household services. Responding to special interrogatories, the jury awarded damages as follows:

loss of financial support $1,763,700

loss of care, guidance, train- 294,000

ing and education

lost household and other ser- 13,900

vices

funeral and burial expenses ...


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