A $10.45 million verdict for the family of a pilot killed at Palwaukee Municipal Airport in 1996 was affirmed by an Illinois Appellate Court today (Monday, March 12).
Richard F. Burke Jr., partner at Clifford Law Offices, received the initial verdict following a five-week trial in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of the family of 53-year-old Larry Koppie. He was traveling in the cockpit of a Gulfstream IV jet with three others when it crashed moments after starting to take off from the airport that is jointly owned by the Village of Wheeling and the City of Prospect Heights.
“We are grateful that the appellate court affirmed a verdict that was fair, just and supported by ample evidence, as 12 people determined over more than a month after hearing the facts,” Burke said. “The defendants who are responsible for failing to maintain the runway safety area in a safe condition should be accountable for their negligence that killed innocent people.”
The jury found that the airport defendants were 90 percent responsible for the crash. Alberto-Culver, owner of the aircraft, was found 5 percent liable and the remaining 5 percent was apportioned to Koppie.
The Gulfstream was taking off for California when the plane suddenly veered to the left of the center line. In going off the paved runway, it encountered a drainage ditch running alongside the entire length of the one-mile runway in an area where the terrain should have been flat and firm to support the plane without causing structural damage. The aircraft crossed Hintz Road outside of the airport property and burst into flames as it came to rest near an apartment complex. The four aboard died in the crash.
Koppie, of Elgin, left a wife and three children. He had been a pilot for over 30 years.
Representing the appellant was Raymond L. Mariani of Dombroff & Gilmore, Brandt R. Madsen of Madsen, Farkas & Powen, LLC, and additionally on appeal, Michael T. Reagan of Herbolsheimer, Lannon, Henson, Duncan & Reagan, P.C.