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Jury Awards Continental $32 Million in Crash Lawsuit

January 31, 1986 GMT

TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) _ A jury has decided the builder of a DC-10 that skidded off a runway in 1978, killing four passengers, should pay $32 million to Continental Airlines for misleading the airline on the plane’s safety.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury Thursday found that McDonnell Douglas Corp. had committed fraud, negligence and breach of contract for making false claims about the plane’s ability to withstand a crash. The accident occurred at Los Angeles International Airport.

The panel, which deliberated 10 days after a four-month trial, ordered the company to pay Continental $17 million in damages plus $15 million in interest.

Four of the 197 passengers were killed and 70 others were injured when two of the jet’s tires blew, the jet tipped onto one wing and its fuel tanks broke open. An estimated 120,000 gallons of fuel spilled onto the ground, Continental attorney Brent Goodrich said. A subsequent fire caused most of the injuries.

Goodrich said the suit focused on McDonnell Douglas’ contention, made to the airline in a sales contract, that if the DC-10′s landing gear were to be ripped off, the fuel tanks in the wings would not rupture.

Don Hanson, a spokesman for the St. Louis-based McDonnell Douglas, said the company will appeal the verdict.

″The DC-10 is a completely safe airplane, as demonstrated by its 15 years of service all over the world,″ he said.

Houston-based Continental sued McDonnell Douglas after the crash of Honolulu-bound Flight 603 during takeoff in the rain.

The plane’s captain, Eugene Hersche, aborted the flight after he heard an unusual noise moments before the jet was to leave the ground. The plane skidded off the end of the concrete runway. On softer asphalt, the landing gear collapsed and the tank ruptured.