Fayette County

Judge rejects pursuit of punitive damages in Comair case

The family of a Louisiana man killed in the August 2006 crash of a Comair regional jet at Blue Grass Airport cannot pursue punitive damages from the airline after a federal judge found the company couldn't be punished for what he called the "reprehensible conduct" of the pilots.

Wednesday's decision by U.S. District Judge Karl Forester reverses an earlier decision that would have allowed the family of Bryan Keith Woodward to ask a jury if Comair committed negligence in the crash of Comair 5191.

Woodward was aboard Comair 5191 when it crashed on Aug. 27, 2006, into a field near the airport, killing 49 people. Co-pilot James Polehinke survived.

The National Transportation Safety Board said investigators found that the pilots failed to notice clues that they were on the wrong runway. According to the NTSB, investigators found that the general aviation strip was too short for a commercial plane to execute a proper takeoff.

Forester concluded in Wednesday's decision that — under Kentucky's wrongful death law — Woodward's family wouldn't be able to show "by clear and convincing evidence" Comair authorized the pilots' conduct. Woodward's family had already been awarded $7.1 million in compensatory damages and $750,000 for pain and suffering.

In 2008, financial settlements were reached between Comair and all but two families of the 47 passengers who died. One of those settled a few weeks later, leaving only the Woodward case.

There are still legal matters pending with the families of the two pilots, Jeffrey Clay, who died in the crash, and Polehinke.

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