Judge: $7.1M for family of Comair Ky. crash victim

A judge on Thursday ordered the family of a victim of the 2006 Comair crash to divide $7.1 million in damages in the last lawsuit from the Kentucky crash.

U.S. District Judge Karl Forester ordered the wife and two daughters of Bryan Keith Woodward to split the compensatory damages award, including $750,000 for Woodward's pain and suffering. The Louisiana man was among 49 people killed when the plane crashed. Dozens of other lawsuits from the crash have already been settled, the amounts confidential.

Flight 5191 crashed Aug. 27, 2006, into a field near Blue Grass Airport in Lexington after trying to take off from a runway too short for commercial jets. The National Transportation Safety Board found the pilots failed to notice clues they were on the wrong runway. Co-pilot James Polehinke survived.

Forester's decision comes a week after he prevented Woodward's family from pursuing punitive damages, saying Comair, an Erlanger, Ky.-based subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., couldn't be punished under Kentucky law for what the judge described as "reprehensible conduct" of the pilots.

Comair spokeswoman Christine Wever said the airline has consistently reached fair settlements.

"Since the day of the accident, we have honored our commitment to treat the passenger families fairly," Wever said. "We hope this judgment provides some measure of comfort for the family."

A message left for an attorney for Woodward's family, David Rapoport of Chicago, was not immediately returned. It was unclear whether they would appeal Forester's ruling on punitive damages.

A jury in December 2009 awarded the compensatory damages to Woodward's family. The judge previously allowed the punitive damages claim to go forward, but several legal issues delayed the trial. Then last week, Forester called off the punitive damages portion of the case.

Forester's order awarded Woodward's wife, Jamie Hebert, $1.35 million for Woodward's loss of earning power and the $750,000 for pain and suffering.

One of Hebert's daughters, Lauren Madison Hebert, will get $2 million for loss of affection and companionship from her father through her 18th birthday. Forester awarded another daughter, Mattie-Kay Hebert, $3 million for loss of affection and companionship from her father through her 18th birthday.

The daughters' ages were not immediately available.

Because Hebert had multiple attorneys over the life of the lawsuit, Forester gave attorneys in the case until March 15 to submit paperwork detailing their expenses.

Jury selection in a massive case against Comair was called off in 2008 when financial settlements were reached between Comair and all but two families of the passengers who died. One of those settled a few weeks later, leaving only the Woodward case.

Woodward, 39, and his family lived near Lafayette, La., where he was an electrician who often worked on offshore oil rigs. He was on his way to Atlanta for a connecting flight when the plane crashed.