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Alika Rogers v. Bell Helicopter Textron

March 11, 2013

ALIKA ROGERS, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON, INC., DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Super. Ct. No. 06AS02842)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie , J.

Rogers v. Bell Helicopter Textron

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Plaintiff Alika Rogers appeals following a jury verdict in favor of defendant Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. (Bell Helicopter), alleging instructional errors. We affirm because Rogers cannot demonstrate prejudice.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

I

Evidence At Trial

Rogers was injured in 2005 when the 54-year-old Bell helicopter she was piloting crashed as a result of a failed bolt in the helicopter's tail rotor.

A

Rogers's Theory Of The Case

Rogers's theory was that the bolt failed because Bell Helicopter's maintenance manual for the helicopter was confusing and the mechanics relying on the manual balanced the tail rotor blades incorrectly. To support her theory, Rogers presented expert witness testimony from architect and mechanical engineer Peter Leffe. Leffe's opinion was that the manual was unclear on how to balance the tail rotor blade. Leffe also testified that if the mechanics had followed the manual in balancing the blades, the crash would not have occurred.

B

Bell Helicopter's Theory Of The Case

Bell Helicopter's theory was that an unknown person had installed the wrong washer (a homemade washer) on the tail rotor and this resulted in loosening of one of the bolts, causing the bolt's failure. To support its theory, Bell Helicopter presented expert witness testimony from engineer and scientist Aaron Slager that the washer was asymmetrical and too thick and had been "smushed down," causing the bolt to loosen and ultimately fail.

Bell Helicopter also presented the testimony of two people who worked on the helicopter in the year before the crash, licensed helicopter mechanics Kenneth Bartholomew and Chester Peterson. In February 2005, Bartholomew installed new tail rotor blades on the helicopter and balanced the tail rotor blades. He relied on the manual to balance this particular helicopter. The manual's instructions did not confuse him. In October 2005, Peterson worked on the helicopter, including balancing the tail rotor blades. He learned how to balance tail rotor blades from Bartholomew, and every time they balanced the blades they consulted the manual. When Peterson balanced the blades this time, he believed he was following the proper procedures set forth in the manual.

II

Jury Instructions Given

The jury was instructed regarding strict liability under the risk-benefit test and on negligence regarding the allegedly defective manual.

III

Jury Instructions Refused

The court refused to instruct on strict liability under the consumer expectation test, strict liability under the failure to warn test, and on negligence per se for violating federal aviation regulations. We set forth these refused instructions below.

A

Consumer Expectation Test Instruction

Rogers proposed a version of CACI No. 1203 that ...


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