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Jury Awards $107 Million to Relatives of Plane Crash Victims

February 25, 1993

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A federal jury awarded $107.25 million to relatives of four family members killed in a crash of their single-engine plane in 1986.

The jury Wednesday found that the plane’s engine, manufactured by Teledyne Continental Motors of California, was defective and caused the fiery accident that killed two Eastman Kodak Co. research scientists and their children.

The verdict is one of the biggest product-liability awards in U.S. history.

″It’s well up there in the top 10 overall, I believe,″ said Brian Shenker, editorial director of the Jury Verdict Research Series of Horsham, Pa.

Members of the jury said they wanted to send a ″clear-cut″ message to the plane’s manufacturer for what they considered negligence.

″They have drastic problems and they need to address them,″ Dan Bastian said.

Robert Gross, 47, of Irondequoit, his 46-year-old wife, Susan, and their children, Michael, 8, and David, 2, were burned alive after their Beechcraft Debonair hit a tree outside an airport in Winston-Salem, N.C. They were on their way to their Virginia farm for Thanksgiving.

The damages were awarded to Robert Gross’ sister, Marjorie Datskow, and Susan Gross’ mother, Juletta Cook, the only surviving relatives.

Lawyers for Teledyne claimed the accident was caused by Gross, who was piloting the plane. The family charged that an unknown particle had plugged the nozzle on the engine, causing gasoline to spill out and ignite a midair fire.

″For us, the biggest thing is that they were redeemed. It wasn’t their fault,″ Datskow said.

Teledyne’s lawyers refused to comment on the verdict.

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