Is a Nuclear Engineer Qualified to Opine on Materials Engineering in a Helicopter Crash Case?

A helicopter manufacturer appealed a jury verdict in a products-liability action awarding the plaintiffs $21M in damages.  

The case stems from a 2013 air ambulance crash in Kentucky that claimed the lives of a three-person flight crew, including the pilot, the flight nurse, and the flight medic. The helicopter sustained a catastrophic series of events that ultimately led to the fatal crash. Although the parties disagreed on the initial cause of the catastrophic events leading to the crash, there was no dispute that the helicopter broke apart in midair. 

The estate of the victims filed a complaint against the helicopter manufacturer, claiming that one of the two main rotor blades on the air ambulance helicopter was defectively manufactured by the defendant. They contended that the rotor blade was defectively manufactured with a four-inch void or disbond between the blade’s aluminum skin and its honeycomb core. This void in the main rotor blade caused increased deflection in the blade over time, and on the night of the crash, the defective main rotor blade fractured and caused extreme vibration that tore the helicopter apart in midair. Plaintiffs sought damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of spousal consortium, and loss of parental consortium. Helicopter manufacturer answered and denied that a manufacturing defect caused the helicopter to crash.  

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