Family of Airplane Crash Victim Awarded $1.8 Million : Court: Judge orders FAA to pay survivors of flight attendant killed in 1986 Cerritos air collision.


More than seven years after the Cerritos air crash, the family of a Mexican flight attendant has been awarded $1.8 million in damages by a Los Angeles federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Robert M. Takasugi ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to pay the award to the mother, two younger sisters and two younger brothers of Patricia Trillo Lopez, the lead flight attendant on the Aeromexico jetliner that was struck by a small private plane Aug. 31, 1986.

Trillo and 81 other people died in the crash.

The award was considerably higher than that received by the families of two other flight attendants who settled out of court with U.S. Justice Department attorneys, representing the FAA. Takasugi’s decision, rendered more than a year after the trial ended, was based on his determination that Trillo was the sole support of her family and would have continued to play that role for many years.


At the time she died, Trillo, 27, was living at home in Mexico City and providing her entire paycheck for the support of her family. She was supporting her mother, Esther Lopez Acosta, 50, her sisters Alejandra, 15, and Susana, 14, and her brothers Julio, 11, and Marco, 9.

“At the time of her death, Patricia was the sole support of plaintiffs,” Takasugi wrote in his decision. “She paid for many of the economic essentials, school supplies and clothes for her siblings.

“In Mexico, it is a common practice and respected tradition that employed adult children support their parents throughout their lives,” Takasugi wrote. “The decedent adhered to this cultural precedence.”

The judge noted that Trillo also shopped, prepared meals, provided transportation, earned extra money by tutoring neighborhood children in English and helped nurture and educate her younger siblings in their schoolwork and with “moral guidance.” Her death caused “emotional and social difficulties which led to serious academic setbacks.”

George F. Archer of Chicago, who represented Trillo’s family, hailed Takasugi’s decision. “The judge recognized there is a tradition and culture in Mexico that kids will continue to support their families after they’ve grown up,” and that accounts for the large damage award, Archer said in a telephone interview.

Justice Department attorney Steven J. Riegel said: “It certainly is a generous award. Our economist said he had never heard of lifetime support for a parent.


“The judge made those findings after listening to the family and finding that Mrs. Acosta could reasonably expect support for the rest of her life,” Riegel said. “It was a sympathetic close family.”

Riegel said that the Justice Department is reviewing the decision to determine if it should be appealed.

Other sources said the government is unlikely to appeal the decision because it has lost four of the five Cerritos crash cases it asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to review.

Riegel said cases brought on behalf of the families of two other flight attendants who died in the crash “were settled for lower amounts,” but he declined to say how much. Riegel said negotiations are pending in the case of the other flight attendant who died in the crash.

In all, Riegel said 50 cases have been settled, 15 have gone to trial and about a dozen are pending, including two scheduled to go to trial this spring.

The damage cases have been conducted in the aftermath of a 1989 trial where another federal judge, David V. Kenyon, found the FAA and William Kramer, the pilot of the Piper aircraft who also perished in the crash, equally responsible for the crash. Aeromexico was found to have no liability.