Appeal Court Rules on Lycoming Crankshaft Case
Lycoming has lost elements of its appeal against a 2005 jury verdict that blamed design faults for a series of crankshaft failures in its engines. The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston agreed with the earlier verdict that Lycoming's design was to blame for the failures, but it set aside a $96 million judgment awarded in the earlier trial to Navasota, Texas-based Interstate Southwest, which forged the crankshafts. As AVweb reported in 2005, Interstate sued Lycoming after the engine manufacturer blamed the failures on problems with Interstate's forging processes. According to Interstate's lawyer, Marty Rose, the appeals court decision also nullifies Lycoming's $173 million counterclaim against Interstate. However, Lycoming apparently doesn't see it the same way. "Lycoming is very pleased that the Court of Appeals has reversed and rejected all of [Interstate Southwest's] claims for damages in this action and has made clear that Lycoming is free to pursue its claims for damages against [Interstate Southwest] and [Interstate Forging Industries]," the company said in a statement to AVweb Saturday. Whether that means more legal wranglings are on the horizon is unclear.
When crankshafts in higher-horsepower Lycoming engines failed from 2000 to 2002, Lycoming blamed Interstate for improperly heat-treating the blanks it forged. However, the 2005 verdict determined that Lycoming had changed the recipe for the alloy used to make the crankshafts by adding vanadium. The vanadium made the steel easier to work with, but it also weakened the end product. According to Rose, the appeals court verdict upholds those elements of Interstate's case and also confirms the earlier finding that Lycoming fraudulently told the FAA that the failures were due to improper heat treatment. Rose said the $96 million judgment in Interstate's favor was set aside because the appeal court said the damages ($10 million actual and $86 million exemplary) were not recoverable under Texas law.