SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ A Sao Paulo judge has ordered U.S. aerospace company Northrop Grumman Corporation to pay $1.1 million to the families of 45 victims of an October 1996 plane crash.

``There is more than enough evidence that the accident was caused by a malfunctioning reverse thrust mechanism manufactured by Northrop,'' Judge Romulo Russo said Tuesday, a day after he handed down his decision in the class-action lawsuit. ``There was no human error involved, it was a purely mechanical failure.''

Calls to Northrop's Los Angeles offices and its lawyer in Brazil seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The TAM Airlines' Fokker 100 crashed Oct. 31, 1996, into the crowded neighborhood of Jabaquara minutes after taking off from Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport en route to Rio de Janeiro, killing 96 people on board and three on the ground.

Investigators at the time said that the right engine turbine's reverse thrust mechanism _ used to brake the plane on landing _ was somehow activated shortly after the plane took off, preventing it from gaining much altitude and triggering the crash.

Fokker, a Dutch manufacturer, folded in March 1996, but several of its planes continue being used by airlines around the world, including TAM.