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Fant v. Champion Aviation

689 So. 2d 32 (1997)

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Fant v. Champion Aviation

Alabama Supreme Court

689 So. 2d 32 (1997)

Facts

Anthony Fant (plaintiff) hired Champion Aviation, Inc. (Champion) (defendant) to remove, rebuild, and reinstall an engine on Fant’s propeller-driven airplane and to perform the airplane’s annual inspection. Fant believed that a specific, qualified aviation mechanic and inspector was going to do the work. However, for financial reasons, Champion hired a different mechanic, Dan Boman, to do the engine work and a separate inspector to perform the annual inspection. Boman told Champion that he (1) lacked experience performing engine repairs by himself and (2) was not familiar with engines on propeller-driven airplanes generally or on Fant’s particular type of airplane. Champion instructed Boman to do the work anyway and did not provide much assistance or supervision for Boman’s work. Boman made false entries in the airplane’s logbook and incorrectly reattached the propeller to Fant’s airplane. Several of the propeller’s bolts sheared off during flight, spraying oil on the windscreen and forcing Fant’s pilot to make a visually obscured emergency landing. The airplane suffered significant damage. Fant sued Champion for fraud and breach of contract. The jury awarded Fant approximately $51,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. After the verdict, Champion moved to dismiss Fant’s breach-of-contract claim, arguing that the repair contract was invalid because Fant had not paid the repair bill before the airplane crashed. The trial court denied this request. Champion also moved for a new trial. The trial court had instructed the jury that Champion could be held liable for failing to disclose the change in mechanics to Fant, and Champion believed that this instruction was an incorrect statement of the law. The trial court granted the motion and ordered a new trial. Both sides appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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