Family Awarded $17 Million from Federal Government for Fatal Military Jet Crash

A judge awarded $17.845 million to a family in a negligence lawsuit against the federal government over a military jet crash that killed four people. A series of mechanical failures and human errors caused the U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18D Hornet jet to crash into the family’s University City home in San Diego, California on December 8, 2008. The crash killed 59 year-old Seokim Kim-Lee, her 36 year-old daughter Youngmi Lee Yoon, and Yoon’s daughters Grace Yoon, age 15 months, and Rachel Yoon, age 7 weeks. Kim-Lee was visiting from her home in Korea at the time of the crash.

According to a timeline published by San Diego’s KGTV, the jet took off from the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln at 11:11 a.m. that morning. It began experiencing mechanical troubles within a few minutes. At 11:21, the carrier ordered the pilot to divert to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, about ninety nautical miles away. The right engine shut down at 11:28, and the next thirty minutes saw numerous equipment problems. Three nautical miles from the air station in Miramar, the plane suffered a flameout, and it crashed at 11:57 a.m.

An investigation into the crash conducted by the Marine Corps found that mechanical failures with the jet’s right engine and fuel transfer system caused an “avoidable” tragedy. It identified policies and practices that could have prevented the crash, including “more aggressive maintenance procedures” and better training and oversight of maintenance personnel. The report partly blamed the crash on decisions by the pilot and ground personnel that morning. Four officers, including the commanding officer and operations officer, were “relieved for cause” from the squadron, and several other individuals received administrative discipline.

Don Yoon, husband of Youngmi Lee Yoon and father of Grace and Rachel Yoon, joined by Sanghyun Lee, husband of Seokim Kim-Lee, and several of Lee and Kim-Lee’s adult children, filed a lawsuit in July 2010 against the United States government and The Boeing Company, who manufactures the F/A-18 jet. They had first filed administrative claims with the Navy in May 2009 under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and admiralty law. The Navy denied these claims in March 2010, and they proceeded to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. They alleged that the government and Boeing had knowledge of failures and defects in this jet model, but cleared it for use anyway. They asserted claims for negligence under both admiralty law and the FTCA against the government, and claims for products liability and breach of warranty against Boeing. The government admitted full liability for the crash, and the case went to trial before the court on December 12, 2011 on the question of FTCA damages.

On December 28, 2011, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller issued a 16-page decision awarding a total of $17.845 million to the plaintiffs. This included over $9 million to Yoon, $4 million to Lee, and $1.5 million each to Lee and Kim-Lee’s three adult children. The plaintiffs had requested about $56 million in damages.

The Washington, DC injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured due to the negligence of others to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

Web Resources:

Command Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the F/A-18 Aircraft Mishap Involving BUNO 164017 that Occurred on 08 December 2008 in University City, San Diego, CA (PDF), United States Marine Corps, March 2, 2009
Original Complaint (PDF), Case No. 10-CV-1578-JM, Yoon, et al v. United States, et al, United States District Court, Southern District of California, July 28, 2010
Statement of Decision (PDF), Case No. 10-CV-1578-JM, Yoon, et al v. United States, et al, United States District Court, Southern District of California, December 28, 2011

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