The D-Craft 184 Crash


P v. D Aircraft Company for damages for the death of P's husband, H, who perished when the plane he was flying--a twin-engine "D-Craft 184"--crashed for no apparent reason on a clear day. The theory of P's case, which she plans to present through expert testimony, is that the fuel tanks on the D-Craft 184, located in the wings, feed fuel to the engines through a "gravitational flow" system that is susceptible to centrifugal force when the fuel tanks are only partially full and the plane is in a steep curve or dive. P's expert will testify that the centrifugal force causes the delivery of fuel to the engine from the tank on the wing on the inside of the curve to be momentarily interrupted. When this happens the inside engine stalls, causing the other engine to jerk the plane around in the opposite direction. The force of this resulting pull reverses the forces on the fuel tanks, causing the second engine to stall. P's expert will testify that when this condition occurs, even an experienced test pilot would be lucky to bring the plane back under control and prevent a crash. P has other evidence that tends to suggest that the crash may have happened in this way.

P's attorney learns through pretrial discovery that D Aircraft Company plans to call an expert on light plane design to testify that the "gravitational flow" fuel system is safe for twin-engine planes of the "184" series. P's attorney also learns that shortly after the accident, D Aircraft Company replaced the gravitational flow fuel system in its 184s with an electronic-pump system.

Is any of this admissible? How should the attorneys for P and D Aircraft Company structure their examination of the witnesses to put in as much favorable evidence as they can and keep out as much unfavorable evidence as possible?

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