According to this Avweb piece, Continental has agreed to pay $20 million to the children of some people killed on a 1977 twin-engine Cessna 421. The settlement came out of a North Carolina lawsuit (where former Democratic VP candidate John Edwards made his fortune suing ob-gyns). To judge from the Avweb article, the evidence against Continental was slim. The NTSB report, as usual, blames the pilot. In this case it seems that the pilot shut down the working engine and failed to feather the prop on the dead engine. So instead of one strong engine and one low-drag feathered engine, he had one medium-drag idling engine producing almost no power and one high-drag dead engine (though actually the NTSB says that they couldn’t find anything that would have prevented the right engine from operating). The maintenance on the engines does not sound as though it was done very carefully; the NTSB reported 124 hours since the last oil change (recommended interval is 50 hours). So… even if the engine really did quit, it might have been due to inadequate maintenance and not Continental’s negligence. And regardless of the reason for an engine failure, a multi-engine rated pilot is supposed to be able to manage the failure (though of course many are not successful and “the second engine carries you to the scene of the accident”).
What I find interesting about this case is the comparison of the $20 million number to the approximately 1000 new airplane engines that a company like Continental is able to sell every year for certified airplanes (i.e., not kits). There are about 2500 piston-engine planes sold every year. About half of these are sold with Continental engines, the other half with Lycoming. An airplane engine costs around $20,000 new. So basically this $20 million settlement is equal to nearly all of the revenue that Continental could hope to earn in one year from selling airplane engines and perhaps 5-10 years of profits.