Legal wrangling not finished

Updated: December 20, 2004, 2:00 AM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Relatives of an Oklahoma State basketball player killed in a university plane crash in 2001 were awarded a $1.6 million settlement, a newspaper reported Monday.

The settlement to the family of Daniel Lawson Jr. was split between Lawson's parents, son and attorneys, The Oklahoman reported in its Monday editions.

Lawson, a 21-year-old junior guard, was one of 10 men who died Jan. 27, 2001, when an airplane carrying members of the basketball program crashed in a Colorado field on the way back from a basketball game at the University of Colorado. Two other planes arrived safely in Stillwater, Okla.

Lawson's son, Ramses B. Hereford, received $440,139, his parents, Daniel Lawson Sr. and Phyllis Lawson, each received $223,238 and the remaining money -- nearly $730,000 -- was awarded to attorneys for legal fees and costs, according to court records.

The settlement was reached at a mediation conference in April, but terms were not disclosed publicly until a filing in Oklahoma County District Court in October.

The families of five other men killed in the crash also reached settlements at the two-day mediation hearing, but attorneys said a confidentiality agreement bars them from discussing what each family received.

Lawson family attorney Kevin Cox said the involvement of Lawson's son, who was born March 21, 2001, led to the public filing.

"The court has to approve any settlement with a minor," Cox said.

The settlement was a result of several civil lawsuits filed by family members of the crash victims.

Three defendants who agreed to settle at the conference provided most of the Lawsons' settlement.

North Bay Charter, the owner of the downed airplane, and the estate of the late pilot Denver Mills combined to pay more than $1.2 million. Marathon Power Technologies Company, an airplane parts manufacturer, paid $200,000.

The settlement included $175,000 from Oklahoma State University, a financial deal made before the April conference, court records show.

"There was very serious insurance limitations and that was a major factor in how the settlements were made," Cox said. "There was not a great deal of insurance."

Cox said his clients "did as well as they could" considering the limitations and the amount of plaintiffs involved.

As a result of the settlement conference, the families of Lawson, Mills, Nate Fleming, Jared Weiberg, Bjorn Fahlstrom and Will Hancock agreed to release all defendants except airplane manufacturer Raytheon Aircraft Co., which walked out of the negotiations.

All six families are pursuing legal action against Raytheon. Wichita, Kan.-based Raytheon is scheduled to go to trial in March as a defendant in a case involving Hancock's wife, Karen, and the Mills estate.

Karen Hancock is seeking nearly $25 million in damages from Raytheon, according to court records. The Mills estate has asked for an award of nearly $12 million.

Hancock's family also received $200,000 from Marathon, according to a filing in Payne County District Court. Oklahoma State reached a $40,000 settlement with Fahlstrom's parents, according to an Oklahoma County court filing.

The four other families who lost loved ones in the crash agreed to undisclosed settlements and signed global releases six months after the crash.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press