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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on December 28th, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Judge Awards Korean-American Man $17.8 Million Due To F/A-18 Crash

A legal judgment has been made in regards to the sad accident where an F/A-18 crashed into the home of a Korean-American family in San Diego:

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. government to pay $17.8 million to a family that lost four members when a Marine Corps fighter jet crashed into their San Diego home in 2008.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller’s ruling came after a nonjury trial between the Department of Justice and the family, who sought $56 million for emotional and monetary loss.

Don Yoon lost his 36-year-old wife, Youngmi Lee Yoon; his 15-month-old daughter, Grace; his 2-month-old daughter, Rachel; and his 59-year-old mother-in-law, Seokim Kim Lee, who was visiting from Korea to help her eldest daughter take care of their children.

Yoon said in a statement that Miller’s ruling was “thoughtful, reasoned and just.” Yoon broke down crying throughout his testimony, which came three years to the day when he buried his wife and baby girls in the same casket. He told the judge he only looks forward to the day when he can join them.

“Our family is relieved this part of the process is over, but no sum of money will ever make up for the loss of our loved ones,” he said.  [Associated Press]

You can read more at the link, but Mr. Yoon is right, there is no way to properly compensate someone after a tragedy like this.

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  • someotherguy
    11:48 pm on December 28th, 2011 1

    This is one of those really sad stories. There was nothing the fighter pilot could do.

  • JoeC
    12:25 am on December 29th, 2011 2


    “There was nothing the fighter pilot could do”

    The article did say:

    The Marine Corps has said the plane suffered a mechanical failure but a series of bad decisions led the pilot — a student — to bypass a potentially safe landing at a coastal Navy base after his engine failed on Dec. 8, 2008.

  • MTB Rider
    1:24 am on December 29th, 2011 3

    I was stationed in San Diego twice during my career. The pilot had four basic options:

    Land at NAS North Island
    Land at San Diego Intl Airport
    Ditch into the Pacific
    Try to make it to MCAS Mirimar

    Option 3 is usually best avoided. But trying to make it home is one of those “I can do this” decisions that works out more than 99% of the time. It’s the 1% failire rate that ends up on CNN.

  • someotherguy
    1:47 am on December 29th, 2011 4


    That’s BS. I read the original article, the Airplane had an engine failure, the pilot informed the base who gave him directions. He followed those directions rather then try to crash the airplane on his own. On top of that, those aircraft have the glide characteristics of a rock once the engine goes out. Their pretty much high speed lawn darts. That pilot was screwed no matter what he did.

  • ChickenHead
    2:08 am on December 29th, 2011 5

    It is BS…

    …if a 270-degree left turn is shorter than a 90-degree right turn.

    But in this universe, the rules of geometry being what they are, the pilot could have made at least one better decision.

  • Tbonetylr
    2:23 am on December 29th, 2011 6

    If memory serves me right, in Korea, each member would’ve been worth approximately 1.78 billion Won each. That’s over 3 times less on the whole alloted sum. So, America values people more than S. Korea.

  • Paul
    2:26 am on December 29th, 2011 7

    I love all you armchair Top Guns. Everything is always clear after the fact…especially when your life isnt at risk and you don’t have all that adrenaline shooting thru you.

  • Avatar of BillBill
    9:11 am on December 29th, 2011 8


    Listen to this

    THe pilot told ATC that he had lost one engine and was having trouble with the other but decided to go to Miramar rather than North Island.

  • Lemmy
    12:47 pm on December 29th, 2011 9

    I don’t expect the average person to know that a Pilot In Command CAN OVERTURN EVERY SUGGESTION, RECOMMENDATION, OR COMMAND given to him for safety reason’s that is a law. This was made perfectly clear to me before I ever soloed myself in a worn out Cessna 172. Even with only one second of flight time, I could have told the controllers to STFU. After all it is my life in the air. The pilot of that F-18 commanded that plane, regardless of what the people on the ground told the pilot, it was his decision to gamble (play games, risk, or what ever you want to call it) on getting the plane to MCASM.

    Many here make good points and probably have never flown an F-18. It probably doesn’t have a glide ratio like a Cessna that I can slow to 65 knots indicated airspeed and glide 12 feet forward for every 1 foot of decent.

    #7 I don’t need to be an arm chair top gun to know If I have one engine out and the only remaining engine is not performing (just like the PIC said) I will immediately direct to the nearest landing site. I have already prepared for that, rehearsed it, and practiced it.

    That “student” was the pilot in command (PIC) and his actions killed two little girls and two women. Those are facts. You can look for excuses around every corner, but the decision of the PIC to fly a severely malfunctioning aircraft into MCASM was what killed that family.

  • someotherguy
    6:25 pm on December 29th, 2011 10

    @all the a$$holes blaming the poor sod.

    F*ck Off.

    The guy radioed base and the base directed him to attempt landing, he followed guidance and the last engine failed before he could make it to a safe landing strip. The airplane fell out of the sky and hit a house.

    There are lots of could’ve and should’ve coming from people’s a$$holes. Technically speaking I can say it was his fault for being deciding to be a pilot. After all if he never would of went to the school he never would of flown that plane and thus it never would of crashed into a house. That is exactly the logic being used here, and you all should be ashamed. Of course your not due to this being the internet and you all being the donkey’s a$$’s you are.

    Ultimately he followed direction from more experienced personal rather then rely on his own inexperience. If the situation was reversed, if he instead chose to make his own decision and it crashed into a house, then all of you a$$ monkeys would be blaming him for being a “hotshot” and not listening. So it seems your all intent on blaming someone regardless of any facts or situational considerations. A bunch of freaking internet trolls, the lot of you.

  • JoeC
    7:53 pm on December 29th, 2011 11


    Obviously seem to be taking this very personally. Must be a deeper story behind that.

    The bottom line is the Marine Corps assessed at least part of the blame to the pilot.

  • ChipperB
    6:34 pm on December 31st, 2011 12

    American soldiers are worth $400,000.00 each, I don’t see why civilian lives should be worth more than that.

  • setnaffa
    8:37 pm on December 31st, 2011 13

    ChipperB, which of your loved ones would you want killed in exchange for $400,000? $1,000,000? $50,000,000? (A rhetorical question, hopefully none.)

    Our legal system is run by wankers who will collect AT LEAST half of any money awarded, so they are literally paid to “run up the score,” which we all pay in increased insurance premiums…

    And yet we continue to elect and reelect lawyers who have foisted this perversion on us.

    May God forgive us and give us wisdom to change before it’s too late.

  • bdh
    11:04 pm on December 31st, 2011 14

    My apologies in advance since I am not sure how to attach a file or if this is really necessary.
    I used my firms Lexis account to pull this since I suspect some may want to read it. I am not sure if this is available on the web. Keep in mind that written judgments are only a small portion of the actual case. Also, I would like to remind anyone who reads it to pay particular attention to the judicial notice of the “extensive media coverage” surrounding the case. I suspect it may have something to do with the award(s). Finally, it should be recognized that the military admitted negligence and as such any dispute regarding fault b/w the pilot or military support crews (not sure what to call all the people involved outside the cockpit, perhaps just “military”?) is irrelevant to this particular judgment.

    [admin. feel free, of course, to cut and attach or just delete as a whole on your discretion]


    1 of 1 DOCUMENT

    DON YOON, an individual, and as Successor in Interest of DECEDENTS YOUNGMI LEE YOON, GRACE YOON, and RACHEL YOON; SANGHYUN LEE, an individual, and as Successor in Interest of DECEDENT SEOKIM KIM-LEE; YUMI LEE, an individual; BAEKGWAN LEE, an individual; JUN HWA LEE, an individual; AND YANGRAE KOOK, an individual, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.

    Case No. 10cv1578 JM(MDD)


    2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148877

    December 28, 2011, Decided
    December 28, 2011, Filed

    CORE TERMS: non-economic, registered nurse, love, damages resulting, crash, daughter, lived, married, nursing, comfort, companionship, decedent, family home, village, sibling, earning, sister, loving, nurse, reasonable compensa-tion, per year, countryside, retirement, marriage, marry, loved, surviving, vegetables, advice, drive

    COUNSEL: [*1] For Don Yoon, an individual, and as Successor in Interest of Decedents Youngmi Lee Yoon, Grace Yoon, and Rachel Yoon, Sanghyun Lee, an individual, and as Successor in Interest of Decedent Seokim Kim, Yumi Lee, an individual, Baekgwan Lee, an individual, Jun Hwa Lee, an individual, Yangrae Kook, an individual, Plaintiffs: Kevin R Boyle, LEAD ATTORNEY, Panish Shea and Boyle, Los Ahngeles, CA; Raymond Feldman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Raymond Feldman, Santa Monica, CA.

    For United States, Defendant: Bruce A. Ross, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, US Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC; Debra D Fowler, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, US Department of Justice, Wash-ington, DC; Matthew J. Mailloux, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, USDOJ – Civ-TAA, Washington, DC.

    JUDGES: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller, United States District Judge.

    OPINION BY: Jeffrey T. Miller


    On December 8, 2008, a United States Marine Corp F/A 18D Hornet fighter jet crashed into the family home of Don and Youngmi Lee Yoon located in University City, a community of San Diego, California. The crash incinerated the Yoon home and killed Youngmi Lee Yoon (36 years old); Grace Yoon (15 months old); Rachel Yoon (7 weeks old) [*2] and Seokim Kim-Lee (59 years old), the mother of Youngmi.
    Don Yoon, husband of Youngmi and father of Grace and Rachel, was at work at the time of the crash. Ms. Kim-Lee was visiting from Korea, her country of origin and citizenship, and had been providing child care for Grace and Rachel.
    Due to the negligence of military personnel, the United States admitted sole liability for the crash, fire, and deaths of those who perished. Plaintiffs in this action are Don Yoon, Sanghyun Lee, the husband of Seokim Kim-Lee, and the three surviving adult children of Ms. Kim-Lee: Yumi Lee, Baekgwan Lee and Jun Hwa Lee, respectively. Ms. Kim-Lee’s mother, Yangrae Kook (89 at the time of her death in November, 2011) is also a named plaintiff with family members duly representing her interests. All plaintiffs seek compensation for non-economic losses. Plaintiffs Don Yoon and Sanghyun Lee also seek compensation for economic losses.
    A three-day court trial pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§2671-2680, began on December 12, 2011 and concluded on December 14, 2011 with the arguments of all parties. Plaintiffs have requested damages totaling approximately $56 million while the government [*3] has requested “fair and reasonable compensation” to be awarded without reference to any specific monetary sum(s).
    After hearing testimony from all parties 1 and considering the arguments and relevant law, the court issues the following Statement of Decision.

    1 Ms. Kook’s interests were advanced through the testimony of several members of the Lee family.

    The following summarizes the testimony of the witnesses presented at the time of the evidentiary hearing.

    Sanghyun Lee
    Sanghyun Lee, 67, was the first witness Plaintiffs called to testify. Mr. Lee and his wife, Seokim Kim-Lee (sometimes referred to as “Seokim”), had been married for 36 years at the time of the crash, the only marriage for either, and had raised their four children, Youngmi Yoon, Yumi Lee, Baekgwan Lee and Jun Hwa Lee in a rural village in the southwest countryside of South Korea. Seokim worked in a factory while Mr. Lee tended to his cattle and farmed.
    Mr. Lee and Seokim were devoted to one another with “plans and dreams” that included additional travel and extended family activity and events. Mr. Lee has not done anything since the loss of Seokim and has “lost everything.” He is alone and feels “unspeakably [*4] sad” at events such as family weddings.
    Mr. Lee described the relationships between Seokim and their children as “so close,” words “cannot express” his thoughts. Family was the most important thing for Seokim. Once Yumi left home for school and work, Seokim and Yumi would talk often by phone and Yumi would visit at least once per month. After Baekgwan left home for his stu-dies in Seoul, Korea, he returned to live with his parents. Mr. Lee described Baekgwan as being so close to his mother, Seokim, Baekgwan had no desire to marry. Mr. Lee described the relationship of Jun Hwa, the youngest son, and Seo-kim in similar terms.
    Youngmi, being the oldest of the four Lee children, embraced the responsibility of helping to raise her younger siblings. Youngmi and Mr. Lee were close, and Youngmi attended a college only twenty minutes from home. This allowed Youngmi to live at home until the age of 23 when she graduated from college.
    Once Youngmi moved to the United States and married Don Yoon, Mr. Lee and Youngmi would speak often via inter-net communication. Mr. Lee considered Don Yoon to be a good son-in-law who treated Youngmi very well. Youngmi repeatedly told Mr. Lee she was very happy in her [*5] marriage. Mr. Lee did not attend Youngmi’s wedding in the United States because Youngmi told him another ceremony was planned in South Korea. The distance between Mr. Lee and Youngmi after Youngmi moved did not make their relationship “less” than it had been.
    Photographs and video clips of Mr. Lee and his granddaughter, Grace, taken in South Korea when Youngmi and Don Yoon allowed Seokim to take Grace to South Korea for an extended visit, showed Grace to be happy while among her South Korean relatives.
    On cross examination, Mr. Lee testified that after Youngmi graduated from college, she moved to Seoul, about 3 1/2 hours away, to begin her work in nursing at a university hospital. Youngmi never returned home to live with her parents thereafter. When Youngmi moved to the United States, it was against the wishes of her father.
    Seokim first came to the United States in about July, 2007, just before Grace was born in August, 2007 and returned to South Korea six months later with Grace. Grace lived with Seokim and Mr. Lee for several months. Seokim then re-turned to the United States in December, 2008.
    The mother of Seokim, Plaintiff Yangrae Kook (“Yangrae”), lived in South Korea with a daughter-in-law. [*6] Seo-kim and Mr. Lee would take vegetables to Yangrae, who received food from other sources as well. Yangrae received a government pension of approximately $90 per month which she used to help with her daughter-in-law’s expenses. On occasion, Mr. Lee would drive Yangrae to a doctor’s appointment. After the crash, Yangrae would receive vegetables and rides from Mr. Lee as before.

    Baekgwan Lee
    Baekgwan Lee (“Baekgwan”), the third oldest child of the four children of Seokim and Mr. Lee, testified that he and all his siblings graduated from college even though their parents did not attend college. Baekgwan is an electrical engineer who was living with his parents at the time of the crash.
    Baekgwan described his mother, Seokim, as a very caring, considerate person, and as someone who would sacrifice everything for her family. Although they lived in a small town in the South Korean countryside, people would always gather at their home as people loved Seokim. People “envied” Baekgwan’s parents and their relationship. Baekgwan’s parents farmed and traveled together a lot. They loved each other.
    Baekgwan married in April, 2010. His mother’s absence at the wedding was difficult as she would have been [*7] the happiest of everyone. Seokim wanted Baekgwan to marry. Baekgwan misses his mother’s warmth, advice, and just holding her.
    Baekgwan has noticed that his father, Mr. Lee, smiles less and has stopped raising cows. He has lost his motivation to love. Before the crash, Baekgwan witnessed his father calling and skypeing often to Seokim and Youngmi.
    Baekgwan observed Seokim help her mother, Yangrae, and give her money.

    Yumi Lee
    Yumi Lee (“Yumi”), Youngmi’s younger sister, and the second of the four children of Seokim and Mr. Lee, grew up in the Lee family home and went to college, which was unusual for rural women. However, Seokim and Mr. Lee wanted to educate all their children; consequently, each of the children had to study and attend college. Youngmi paid the col-lege tuition for all her siblings. Yumi lived in the family home until the age of 25. After Yumi married, she and her husband would visit her parents often, and Seokim would be waiting for them near the entrance to their village. The aromas of flowers and food would await their arrival at the Lee home.
    Yumi and her older sister, Youngmi, went to school together. Youngmi worked at Sacred Heart Hospital of Han Lin University as a [*8] nurse in the psychiatric department. Youngmi provided medications and helped with the man-agement of psychiatric patients by reading to them and through exercises. Youngmi also worked as a registered nurse in the OB/GYN department at Lee Young Sun hospital in areas of testing and diagnostics. Youngmi worked as a regis-tered nurse for a total of ten years in South Korea.
    Yumi herself worked as a nurse in clinical pathology in a hospital setting.

    Jun Hwa Lee
    Jun Hwa Lee (“Jun Hwa”) the youngest of the four Lee children, was nicknamed “baby boy” and was made to “feel special” by his mother, Seokim. At trial, Jun Hwa found it difficult to express in words his love for his mother.
    Seokim instilled in Jun Hwa the four missions of a man: (1) education, which Jun Hwa met by studying mechanical engineering; (2) military service, which Jun Hwa performed; (3) a good job, which Jun Hwa acquired by working in subway maintenance management; and (4) to marry well, which Jun Hwa also accomplished. Jun Hwa lived at home with his parents until marrying at the age of 28.
    Upon his mother’s death, Jun Hwa lost the advice she would provide as well as the chance to fulfill his family duties to his mother. Jun Hwa [*9] still pretends his mother is with him.
    Jun Hwa has observed his father to be weak after Seokim’s death and not to eat well.

    Valerie Owens
    Ms. Valerie Owens, a registered nurse and Director of Nursing at Kearny Mesa Convalescent Hospital (“KMCH”) for ten years, hired Youngmi when she applied for a nursing position at the hospital. At the time Youngmi was hired, she was a registered nurse, duly licensed by the State of California. Ms. Owens observed Youngmi to be delightful, warm, caring, and very genuine in her concern to take care of other people. Youngmi was hired as a medication nurse even though she was a licensed registered nurse because there was no opening for Youngmi as a registered nurse during the time she was at KMCH. Youngmi received pay increases, but no advancement in position. In the opinion of Ms. Owens, Youngmi would have been a good candidate to fill a registered nurse opening.
    Youngmi was like a sister to Ms. Owens. She worked hard at KMCH and had no problem communicating in English with the residents. Youngmi told Ms. Owens of her plans to work as a registered nurse in a larger facility, something Ms. Owens felt Youngmi would succeed at.

    Ok Hee Park
    Ms. Ok Hee Park first [*10] met Youngmi in South Korea in 2003 while both were studying for their registered nurse exam for New York and California. They became friends during the registered nurse preparatory course and then closer after that. Ms. Park told Youngmi about her brother-in-law, Don Yoon. Youngmi and Don Yoon began to correspond by email. Eventually, Youngmi came to the United States to meet Don. They quickly married thereafter. Youngmi told Ms. Park of her desire to work asa registered nurse at a large hospital such as Sharp or Scripps.
    Ms. Park has observed changes in her brother-in-law, Plaintiff Don Yoon, since the death of Youngmi. He misses his wife and children.

    Aesuk Park
    Ms. Aesuk Park, the older sister of Don Yoon, has lived in the United States since 1983 and in Chula Vista since 2005. Mr. Yoon now lives with his sister and is self-employed as a wholesaler of general merchandise.
    After Youngmi and Don married, they were happy and loved each other very much. They would attend church together and walk and hike. They showed affection. Don would think about his children all the time. They were a happy family.
    Since the crash, Don has lost everything: his smile, his happiness. Their home is now like [*11] a jail, no one visits.

    John Park
    Mr. John Park lived in the same South Korean village as Don Yoon’s family and eventually married Don Yoon’s sister. He and Don lived together when Don first arrived in the United States and observed Don to be wonderful with kids.
    Mr. Park was aware of Youngmi’s habit of calling Don while he would be driving home from work so that she could time his food to be hot upon his arrival. Before the crash, Don was a comedian, making everyone laugh. He adored Youngmi and the kids and was loyal and faithful to family. Now Don is heartbroken and doesn’t smile or talk.

    Kevin Yun
    Mr. Kevin Yun, Don’s older brother, testified that he would visit Youngmi and Don once or twice a year from South Korea. He observed that Youngmi changed Don for the better, i.e., she improved his eating habits. Before the crash, Don was humorous, told jokes, and adored kids. Now, he doesn’t smile or see people. He stays home with the exception of daily visits to the graves of his family. He rests there.

    Don Yoon
    Mr. Don Yoon testified on December 13, 2011, three years to the day he buried his wife, Youngmi, and two daughters, Grace and Rachel, in one casket, at the cemetery he visits daily to [*12] the present time.
    Mr. Yoon was born in 1970 in South Korea and, after graduating from high school, came to the United States at age 18. At the time, he saw the United States as a land of opportunity. He became a United States citizen, obtained an AA de-gree in business administration and, according to the testimony of a sibling, attended UCSD Extension to study English.
    It was important to Mr. Yoon to wait for the right person when considering marriage and a family. He met Youngmi through his sister-in-law who, in turn, knew Youngmi’s study partner in nursing in South Korea. Mr. Yoon and Youngmi communicated through email for six months. In November, 2004, Youngmi came to the United States to meet Mr. Yoon. They immediately “hit it off,” attended church together and quickly decided to marry. They married on Decem-ber 25, 2004, Christmas Day. Mr. Yoon was 34 at the time of his wedding and Youngmi was 32.
    When Youngmi first arrived in the United States, she enrolled in school to improve her English, and had volunteered about one hundred hours at a hospital before securing a job at KMCH. According to Mr. Yoon, his wife liked working at KMCH and her co-workers. She enjoyed nursing and helping [*13] people, and it was her goal to work in a large San Diego hospital. During the first 15 months after their marriage, Youngmi had contacted larger hospitals but was unsuccessful in securing an interview. It had been Youngmi’s intention to resume her efforts to work in such a hospital in 2009, after the birth of Rachel, and had been studying English daily.
    The Yoons were married for three years before Grace was born. During that time, the Yoons enjoyed traveling, cruising, and skiing together. Youngmi was “a great cook” and helped her husband change his eating habits.
    The Yoons’ first daughter, Grace, was born in August, 2007. Seokim arrived shortly before the birth of Grace to provide childcare. Seokim stayed for approximately six months and then returned to South Korea with Grace in August of 2008. It had been a difficult decision to let Grace travel to South Korea with Seokim, but the Yoons preferred to have Grace with family rather than in daycare during Youngmi’s pregnancy with Rachel. The Yoons called South Korea every day while Grace was there. The Yoons’ second daughter, Rachel, was born in October, 2008.
    After the crash, Mr. Yoon lost the love of his life and his daughters. They [*14] were taken from him in one day. He looks forward to reuniting with them one day. “That is all I have to look forward to.”

    Peter Formuzis
    Dr. Peter Formuzis possesses a Ph.D. in economics and has 25 years of teaching experience at the university level and 20 years of private consulting as a forensic economist. He was called by Plaintiffs as their expert on economic damages. Working with a set of assumptions, Dr. Formuzis rendered opinions.
    For his calculations on loss of earnings, Dr. Formuzis assumed Youngmi Yoon would be on maternity leave for six months following the birth of Rachel, and would then return to KMCH for one year in her position as a medications nurse, earning $46,000 per year. Assuming the San Diego job market to be good for those seeking a position as a regis-tered nurse, Dr. Formuzis then assumed Youngmi would secure a registered nursing position at a large San Diego hos-pital in 2010 starting at the 25th salary percentile for registered nurses, or $69,900 per year. Dr. Formuzis then moved her up to the 75th percentile over a ten-year period, or to the level of $99,000 per year further enhanced by wage in-creases of 4.8% yearly. Dr. Formuzis further assumed Youngmi would [*15] work to the age of 65. Dr. Formuzis fac-tored in deductions for personal consumption ranging from 42% to 28%, and taxes of 14% in addition to adding the value of fringe benefits. Finally, Dr. Formuzis used a discount rate of .5% reflecting interest on 3-5 year treasury securi-ties, an investment which Dr. Formuzis believed to possess the requisite degree of safety. Dr. Formuzis eschewed the use of municipal bond rates for discount value as he deemed them too risky.
    Based on the foregoing assumptions, Dr. Formuzis pegged the loss of past earnings of Youngmi at $85,479 and the loss of future earnings at $1,475,958 with retirement at age 65, and at $1,831,074 with retirement at age 70.
    Dr. Formuzis calculated past loss of Youngmi’s home services to be $39, 279 and the future loss of such services to range from $492,603 to $609,331 depending on variations of work life expectancy (to age 65 or 70) and life expectancy (from normal to 90 years of age based on an assumption regarding family longevity).

    Paul Zimmer
    Paul Zimmer, a licensed California certified public accountant, called by the government, worked from a different set of assumptions in reaching his conclusions of economic loss.
    With respect [*16] to the loss of Youngmi’s earnings, Mr. Zimmer assumed annual wages of $50,000 per year aug-mented by 20% for benefits, reduced by 14% for taxes, further reduced by 16-35% for personal consumption, and increased 3% per year for wage growth. Mr. Zimmer used a work life expectancy of 20 years, or to age 57, and further assumed Youngmi would continue working in a position tantamount to a medication or licensed vocational nurse and not as a higher-paid registered nurse. Finally, Mr. Zimmer used a different discount rate than Dr. Formuzis used, one pegged to municipal bond interest rates, concluding that any additional risk of municipal insolvency still fell within the standard required for safe investment.
    With those assumptions, Mr. Zimmer opined that the past wage loss was $63,072 and the past loss of household servic-es was $13,768. Mr. Zimmer pegged the loss of Youngmi’s future earnings at $450,467 with retirement at 57 and at $711,945 with retirement at age 65. Mr. Zimmer calculated the loss of Youngmi’s future household services to be at $196,563.

    The parties stipulated that the loss of the Yoons’ personal property destroyed in the crash and fire to be the sum of $65,000, [*17] and the economic loss for Sanghyun Lee, husband of Seokim Kim-Lee, to be the sum of $230,000.

    Legal Standards
    This action was brought under the FTCA with admitted liability by the United States government for the deaths of de-cedents Youngmi Yoon, Grace Yoon, Rachel Yoon, and Seokim Kim-Lee, as a result of a United States Marine Corps F/A 18D aircraft crashing into the Yoon family home in San Diego. Plaintiffs have complied with the administrative claim filing requirements.
    What constitutes reasonable compensation for Plaintiffs’ recoverable losses and damages is the sole question to be de-termined by the court. In California, the measure of damages for wrongful death is addressed by statute and case law. California law allows a surviving spouse, among others, to recover damages in a wrongful death action. As a general matter, damages are measured by the financial benefits heirs were receiving at the time of death and those reasonably expected in the future as well as the monetary equivalent of the loss of the decedents’ advice, training, love, compa-nionship, comfort, affection, society and solace or moral support. See Code of Civ. Procedure §377.60-377.61; Corder v. Corder, 41 Cal. 4th 644, 661-662, 61 Cal. Rptr. 3d 660, 161 P.3d 172 (2007); [*18] Krouse v. Graham, 19 Cal. 3d 59, 69, 137 Cal. Rptr. 863, 562 P.2d 1022 (1977); Rufo v. Simpson, 86 Cal.App. 4th 573, 614, 103 Cal. Rptr. 2d 492 (2001); Judicial Council of California, Civil Jury Instructions (CACI), Fall 2011 Edition, Volume 2, §§3920-3921. Non-economic damages are recoverable by the spouse of a decedent, and by the parent of a decedent, or by a minor child. A plaintiff has the burden of establishing, by the weight of the evidence, entitlement to monetary damages. CACI, §200.
    The parties are in general agreement that Plaintiff Yangrae Kook may recover damages only if she has established through her representatives that she was actually financially dependent, to some extent, upon Seokim Kim-Lee, her daughter, for the “necessaries of life.” See Foster v. City of Fresno, 392 F. Supp.2d 1140, 1146 (E.D.Cal.2005).
    As the foregoing authorities establish, no damages may be awarded for the grief or sorrow of a surviving heir. The loss of “society, comfort and protection” of a child may be considerable where the decedent had demonstrated a “kindly demeanor,” or rendered assistance. See Corder, 41 Cal.4th at 661-662.
    In determining non-economic damages, a court must analyze each individual case, mindful of what awards have been made in [*19] other cases involving similar types of losses. This court has carefully considered the references of other awards attached as exhibits in the trial briefs. Those cases demonstrate that the range of recovery in wrongful death cases is vast depending on the circumstances of a particular case, and that no amount of reasonable compensation can truly make one whole for the loss of a loved one, especially where, as in the present case, each decedent was kind, loving and an integral part of an exemplary family.

    Analysis and Findings
    By all accounts, the crash of the U.S. Marine Corps F/A 18D aircraft into the Yoon family home on December 8, 2008 stunned the greater community of San Diego as well as the military establishment which has considered San Diego a long-time home. 2 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 country-side of South Korea also suffered great loss as a result of Ms. Seokim Kim-Lee perishing in the crash. Indeed, this analysis shall begin with the recognition that, as disclosed by the evidence, Ms. Kim-Lee was [*20] an extraordinary woman whose profound and loving influence greatly molded, directly or indirectly, virtually every Plaintiff in this case. And it’s that remarkable influence which informs and helps to measure what fair and reasonable compensation should be awarded in this case.

    2 The court takes judicial notice of the extensive media coverage surrounding the tragedy of December 8, 2008.

    Ms. Kim-Lee, 59 at the time of her death, along with her husband, Sanghyun Lee, 67 at the present time, raised four children in the southwest countryside of South Korea, including Youngmi Lee Yoon (hereafter Youngmi), who perished in the crash. The evidence reveals that Ms. Kim-Lee was a remarkable woman, imbued with a love of life, family and traditional South Korean values. The Lee home was one of warmth, where family and village residents congregated to celebrate milestones as well as regular visits of friends and family members. At the same time, Ms. Kim-Lee was a modern woman who provided advice and guidance to each and every one of her four children. Perhaps her influence was best described in the testimony of her son, Jun Hwa, as he related the four missions of man, as told by his mother, all of [*21] which he faithfully followed to completion. With the loving influence of Ms. Kim-Lee, each of the child-ren prepared for, enrolled in, and completed college. Each has pursued a professional career since – - all beginning from a farming village in the South Korean countryside. Of course, it is no surprise that Ms. Kim-Lee and her husband had a long-term marriage centered around their mutual love, family, daily routines, and shared interests. They shared every-thing together, even Ms. Kim-Lee’s factory job when she would be away caring for a grandchild.
    The character of Ms. Kim-lee was palpable, from the testimony at trial to every photo and video clip that was shown. The care, comfort, companionship, guidance, and love provided by Ms. Kim-Lee to her family are virtually immeasurable. Those qualities were expressed in a myriad of ways: from her customary greeting of visiting family members at the village gates, to instilling the missions of a man in her sons, to a willingness to leave the comfort of her own community in order to provide daycare to a newborn grandchild in San Diego. The loss of Ms. Kim-Lee and her profound love and influence has indeed been great and will continue to be [*22] a great loss for plaintiffs in the future.
    Perhaps one measure of how profound Ms. Kim-Lee’s influence was on those whom she touched was how her eldest child, Youngmi, turned out. Youngmi, as the first child, dutifully assisted with the raising of her siblings, took to heart the importance of education as it was stressed by her mother, graduated with a degree in nursing, and then worked ten years as a registered nurse in city hospital settings. Youngmi was raised in such exemplary fashion that she paid the college tuition for all her siblings and dedicated herself to the healing of others, all the while hoping to find the right man with whom to raise a family. Later, Youngmi had the confidence and courage to travel to the United States to meet and ultimately marry her husband, Don Yoon. Without the strength of character nurtured by a loving mother, it is fair to conclude Youngmi may never have lived and loved as she did.
    Youngmi, the evidence clearly established, was a remarkable young woman in her own right, helping to heal the infirm of mind, providing OB/GYN service to others, and ultimately working with the elderly in a convalescent hospital. She, in turn, became a loving health [*23] provider, wife and mother providing her own blend of care, comfort, compa-nionship, society, guidance and love to others. Youngmi was devoted to her profession, with ambition sufficient to study for licensure in the United States (in New York and California) as a registered nurse while still in South Korea. Her drive continued once in the United States, as she studied her English daily and looked to further her nursing career as a registered nurse in a large hospital. Those qualities continued as she married Don Yoon and organized her life around her work and family. The evidence establishes Youngmi was a loving and supportive wife, sharing her spiritual life with her husband, converting him to a healthy diet, traveling and recreating together, and creating a new family together. Youngmi was the love of Don Yoon’s life, someone he had waited for and someone who possessed all the qualities he cherished. The loss of Youngmi with her extraordinary gifts of love, guidance, companionship, care and comfort, once again, practically defies measure.
    The deaths of Grace and Rachel Yoon have deprived Don Yoon of the comfort, companionship, society and love a young child is capable of providing [*24] to a new parent and, then, in later life. By all accounts, the Yoon girls would have been raised with traditional cultural and family values emphasizing love and devotion to parents and family. The loss of a young child also deprives a parent of the instinctive need to nurture, guide, and love that child. Don Yoon’s loss associated with the death of both his children is substantial and not to be diminished or reduced by the willingness of the Yoons to permit a grandmother to care for their daughters. Nor is this loss of a nominal nature merely because Grace and Rachel were 15 months and 7 weeks old, respectively, when they perished.
    A preponderance of the evidence establishes that each of Ms. Kim-Lee’s three surviving children will suffer the loss of their mother’s love, companionship, assistance, affection and moral support. The testimony has established that Ms. Kim-Lee was intrinsically involved in the lives of her children, even as they married and pursued their professional lives. Yumi, Baekgwan, and Jun Hwa have lived in the family home until adulthood and each testified to the care comfort, guidance, companionship, love extended to them by their mother. The loss of their mother [*25] and those qualities will be an enduring and significant loss.
    All parties agree, as reflected in the trial briefs, that in order for plaintiff Yangrae Kook to recover damages, the evi-dence would have to establish that Ms. Kook was dependent, to some extent, upon her daughter, Ms. Kim-Lee, for the “necessaries of life.” Such dependence must be financial, not emotional. See Perry v. Medina, 192 Cal. App. 3d 603, 610, 237 Cal. Rptr. 532 (1987); Foster v. City of Fresno, 392 F. Supp. 2d 1140, 1146. The preponderance of evidence establishes that Ms. Kook was not dependent upon her daughter, Ms. Kim-Lee, for the necessaries of life. Rather, Ms. Kook lived with a daughter-in-law, received a government pension, and received vegetables that she required as well as rides to appointments from different sources. Although the Lees provided vegetables for Ms. Kook, and both Ms. Kim-Lee and her husband were able to drive Ms. Kook to medical appointments, financial dependence was not estab-lished. Moreover, Baekgwan Lee’s observation of his mother giving Ms. Kook money is insufficient, without greater context or explanation, to satisfy the requirement of some level of financial dependence.
    With respect to the recovery of [*26] economic damages by Mr. Yoon, the court finds that each of the economic ex-perts made unwarranted assumptions in reaching their respective conclusions, although the totality of evidence supports Dr. Formuzis’ conclusions in larger measure.
    First and foremost, as the court has already recognized, Youngmi was a person of great drive and ambition, dedicated to furthering her nursing career through study, persistence, and an exceptional work ethic. This finding is buttressed by her studies in South Korea for registered nurse certification in the United States, her ten years of Registered nurse expe-rience in South Korea, her stated desire to work asa registered nurse in a large San Diego hospital, and the assessment of her potential by Director Owens. It is practically inconceivable that Youngmi would have failed in her quest to land such a position, as Mr. Zimmer has assumed she would fail, and merely stayed in her position at KMCH, retiring at the age of 57. On the other hand, to assume Youngmi would have in fact reached her goal after a six-month maternity leave, and, thereafter, a one-year return to KMCH, constituted too roseate a prognostication. Rather, it seems more probable that Youngmi [*27] would have secured her desired registered nurse position sometime within a five-year window from Rachel’s birth – which takes into account the tight registered nursing market referred to by Ms. Owens – and worked until a retirement age of approximately 65. Moreover, a discount rate based upon a bit more of an optimistic economic picture over the expanse of Youngmi’s work life expectancy would seem to be in order. Finally, the court has carefully considered the qualifications of the respective experts, and their opinions regarding past and future wage losses as well as past and future losses for household services.

    Based on the applicable law, the evidentiary record before the court, and the foregoing analysis with findings, the court awards the following sums as fair and reasonable compensation for the losses resulting from the deaths of Seokim Kim-Lee, Youngmi Lee Yoon, Grace Yoon and Rachel Yoon:
    1. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $1,200,000 for the total wage loss, past and future, of wages Youngmi Yoon would have earned.
    2. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $250,000 for the total loss of household services, past and future, Youngmi Yoon would have provided.
    3. To plaintiff [*28] Don Yoon, the sum of $2,000,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of Youngmi Yoon.
    4. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $4,000,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of Youngmi Yoon.
    5. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $65,000 for the loss of personal property.
    6. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $300,000 for the past non-economic damages resulting from the loss of his daughter Grace Yoon.
    7. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $1,000,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of his daughter Grace Yoon.
    8. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $200,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of his daughter Rachel Yoon.
    9. To plaintiff Don Yoon, the sum of $600,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of his daughter Rachel Yoon.
    10. To plaintiff Sanhyum Lee, the sum of $230,000 for economic damages, past and future, resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    11. To plaintiff Sanghyun Lee, the sum of $1,000,000 for past non-economic damages, resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    12. To plaintiff Sanghyun Lee, the sum of $2,000,000 for future non-economic damages, resulting from the death of Seokim [*29] Kim-Lee.
    13. To plaintiff Sanghyun Lee, the sum of $250,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of Youngmi Yoon .
    14. To plaintiff Sanghyun Lee, the sum of $250,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of Youngmi Yoon.
    15. To plaintiff Yumi Lee, the sum of $500,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    16. To plaintiff Yumi Lee, the sum of $1,000,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    17. To plaintiff Baekgwan Lee, the sum of $500,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seo-kim Kim-Lee.
    18. To plaintiff Baekgwan Lee, the sum of $1,000,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    19. To plaintiff Jun Hwa Lee, the sum of $500,000 for past non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    20. To plaintiff Jun Hwa Lee, the sum of $1,000,000 for future non-economic damages resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    21. To plaintiff Yangrae Kook, the sum of $0 for past and future non-economic loss resulting from the death of Seokim Kim-Lee.
    Plaintiffs are to prepare a final judgment in accordance with this Statement [*30] of Decision.
    DATED: December 28, 2011
    /s/ Jeffrey T. Miller
    Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller
    United States District Judge

  • JoeC
    4:24 pm on April 6th, 2012 15

    No fatalities this time … so far as we know.


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