Jury awards $26M to families of victims killed in plane crash north of Arlington


SEATTLE - A defective carburetor is blamed for the 2008 crash of a small plane north of Arlington that killed three people.

A King County Superior Court jury awarded two families $26.1 million for the deaths of  Dr. Tory Becker, an Auburn spine surgeon, Enumclaw airline pilot Brenda Houston, and her 10-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Crews.

The jury awarded both compensatory and punitive damages against the engine manufacturer.

The single-engine Cessna was flying from San Juan Island to Auburn when its engine failed, causing the airplane to crash into a heavily forested area north of Arlington.  Investigators at the scene discovered that the carburetor float, an accessory which supplies fuel to the engine, had leaked and was full of fuel. 

Watch video from 2008 crash near Arlington

“Once we analyzed the defects in the carburetor, our investigation focused on the carburetor design, manufacturing process, and failure history,” said Robert Hedrick, an attorney with Aviation Law Group in Seattle who represents the Becker family.  “Sure enough there was a significant history of similar failures for years before this accident,” Hedrick said.

Attorneys said the manufacturer implemented a fix for the carburetor problem more than two years before the crash but the fix was not implemented for thousands of aircraft already operating the field, including the Cessna that crashed.

The trial took place in February and March in Seattle. After hearing testimony and arguments from both sides, the jury awarded compensatory damages to the families. In a second phase of the trial, the jury awarded $6 million in punitive damages.

Becker was in private practice in Auburn and was a staff surgeon at Auburn Regional Medical Center. 

Brenda Houston was an experienced airline pilot with United Airlines.