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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Multimillion award in fatal Marine jet crash

(CN) — A San Diego area family won more than $12 million in damages for the 2008 crash of a U.S. Marine Corps fighter jet, which incinerated their home and killed two women and two infants.
A Marine Corps F/A 18D Hornet fighter jet crashed into the University City home of Don and Youngmi Lee Yoon on Dec. 8, 2008.
Don Yoon was at work when the crash killed his wife and two daughters, Youngmi Lee Yoon, 36; Grace Yoon, 15 months, and Rachel Yoon, 7 weeks. His mother-in-law, Seokim Kim-Lee, 59, also died in the blaze. She had been visiting from Korea to help care for her grandchildren.
"Due to the negligence of military personnel, the United States admitted sole liability for the crash, fire, and deaths of those who perished," U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller wrote Wednesday.
Yoon filed suit with his father-in-law, his late wife's three adult siblings and the mother-in-law's mother who died last month at the age of 89. They had asked the court for approximately $50 million in damages, while the government requested "fair and reasonable compensation," without reference to a specific amount.
Testimony from the family and friends of the victim, some of whom had traveled from South Korea to testify at trial, convinced Miller to award $12,445,000.
An economist and a forensic accountant also testified.
Kim-Lee's recently decease mother cannot claim damages since she was not financially dependent upon her daughter at the time of Kim-Lee's death, the court found.
"No damages may be awarded for the grief or sorrow of a surviving heir," Miller wrote. "The loss of 'society, comfort, and protection' of a child may be considerable where the decedent had demonstrated a 'kindly demeanor' or rendered assistance."
The judge also spoke about the far-reaching effects of the crash, which "stunned the greater community of San Diego as well as the military establishment which has considered San Diego a long-time home."
"While much of the public sentiment and sadness centered upon Don Yoon, who lost his wife and daughters in the crash, the evidence presented in this trial revealed how other families situated in the cities and countryside of South Korea also suffered great loss as a result of Ms. Seokim Kim-Lee perishing in the crash," the 16-page decision states.

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