Disagreement on Amount of Damages for Fatal Helicopter Collision Involving Colorado Men

Disagreement on Amount of

In 2016, there were zero deaths from crashes among U.S.-certificated scheduled airlines. This is the 7th year in a row that this feat has been accomplished. On the non-commercial side, The Aviation Safety Network reports that there were 18 fatal airline crashes in 2016 and 14 in 2015. The worldwide fatality rate is roughly one per 3.2 million flights. Two Colorado men were killed in 2014 when their helicopter collided with a small plane and the civil case is currently underway.

Parsons & Jenkins v. Midwest Air Traffic

Christopher Parsons of Westminster and William Jenkins of Morrison, CO were killed when a plane impacted their helicopter. A wrongful death suit is currently underway against Midwest Air Traffic Control, who was managing the air traffic control tower at the time for Frederick Municipal Airport. The National Transportation Safety Board’s report did not determine who was clearly at fault stating “each pilot was or should have been aware of the other and should have understood the conflict potential”. These reports are known as “probable cause reports”, and are not admissible as evidence. Federal laws restrict their usage in cases to prevent investigators from being concerned with how their report may impact a court case.

Large Disparity in Perceived Amount of Damages

The economists for the plaintiff found that the approximate awards for damages should be $3.3 million for Parsons and $4.5 million for Jenkins. Later in the case, the defense’s expert testified that estimates should be $1.3 million for Parsons and $732,899 for Jenkins—a massive disparity. The method of calculation used by the defense was the “median earning” method while the plaintiff’s used the “human capital earnings function”. The human capital earnings model predicts the individual’s future earnings based on their level of education and work experience. While the median earnings model bases the prediction on data from others in the same profession.

Colorado Wrongful Death Calculation

Economic losses include actual expenses such as medical and funeral expenses, plus a reasonable estimation of what the individual would have earned in the future and shared with the heir(s). Non-economic losses such as grief and loss of companionship are limited to $250,000; however, this is regularly adjusted for inflation and is now roughly $430,000. Exemplary, or punitive damages apply only in cases where the death was caused by intentional or malicious actions of the defendant. The amount of exemplary damages does not exceed the amount of actual damages awarded. In Colorado, the future earnings calculation can get complicated, yet is loosely based on current earnings (present value) and how many years of earnings they would be likely to accumulate.

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