More Lawsuit Foolishness

March 18, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

Press reports last week noted that the family of Cory Lidle, the NY Yankee ball player who crashed in October 2006 while trying to reverse course in a tight Class B corridor in NY, is suing Cirrus Design for $45 million in lost wages that he might have earned. The premise is that a flight control system malfunction caused the SR20 to slam into the side of a building. The NTSB found no evidence of control system anomalies but the attorney pursuing this theory claims that the design is defective and cites several examples that, in my opinion, have no bearing.

There will likely be reference to a crashed prototype aircraft that suffered aileron binding during certification – the test pilot was lost but the problem was identified and fixed. Guess I’m confused but I thought that’s what flight test was all about. Another Cirrus, an SR22, was lost after coming out of maintenance. The flight controls were misrigged and the pilot had to pull the chute. So far, design doesn’t seem to be an issue but there are highly paid experts in many of these cases who are willing to rationalize almost anything for a buck.

Forgive me for being a bit cynical and why should we care? Short answer – because it distorts both the safety and economic equation. Manufacturers should absolutely be held accountable for dangerous design and pilots should bear responsibility for their mistakes, as painful as that might be. Even if Cirrus ultimately prevails, for the right reasons, we all lose because they have to defend the case or their insurance company may choose to settle for a lower sum because that’s cheaper than the litigation. Either way, the cost of doing business and what we pay for each aircraft significantly increases to enrich the family and the attorney even though the aircraft was not a factor in the accident.

As a philosophical point, my opinion whenever there is a design flaw, is that actual damages should be awarded to the family and punitive damages, if any, should go to fixing the problem for the rest of the fleet.

I am confused by this whole “truth and justice” thing. Opportunistic lawsuits clearly seem to be the American Way.

Your thoughts?

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Larry

    While certainly tragic, also certainly pilot error. Not a design flaw that the plane cannot execute a 180 in narrow space turning downwind. UK has a good answer here, if plaintiffs fail in their lawsuit, they pay the costs of the defense. Would slow down nonsense like this.

  • John Tichy

    I know the families lawyer. I have trained him (more than once), have had dinner at his house, gone out for drinks many many time. With most lawsuits there are lawyer that will say and do anything to fill their pockets. Unfortunately I know far more than that can be said about tactic used by some. This smells. Cirrus has options to beat back this lawsuit.

  • Bill Lawrence

    Enough! Yes, there are flagrant abuses of the legal system. But this very blog is a perfect example of the uninformed ranting against the unknown. So this is “clearly pilot error”. How many of you actually know anything about the rudder-aileron interconnect system in the CIrrus? How many of you have read any of the witness statements? How many of you have really seen the accident reports? How many of you are trained to investigate this type of event? How many of your have researched prior similar mishaps? You speak because you have a predisposed animosity against the legal profession. And what you say is fueled by … well, I’m not sure what fuels it. But there are many very real and clear examples running through aviation of manufacturers who have known of design or manufacturing defects, yet did nothing about them. How do you know this is not one of them?
    For your information, I have known only one expert who was an attorney. I am a retired Colonel of the US Marine Corps. I have been an expert for 19 years, based on over 40 years in aviation, flight time in over 120 types, models, and series of aircraft, graduation from the US Navy Test Pilot School, over 10 years of engineering/experimental flight test, and several years of human factors/ergonomic/cockpit design experience. I have undergraduate and advanced degrees and education in mathematics, computer science, and aeronautical engineering. I am a school-trained accident investigator.
    I like to think I know what I am talking about. And if you know anything at all about aircraft accidents, you know that there is rarely only one causal factor. Accidents are almost always a sequence of events that, liked together, result in an accident. And I would never presume, absent an investigation, to state the “clear” cause of an aircraft crash. I don’t know what caused this crash. It could have been one of several factors, or a combination of many factors.
    Okay, I’ve vented. You can now declare, from your fount of virtual knowledge, that I am simply the pawn of the legal industry. Some experts clearly are. But I would suggest you think before you make unfounded remarks based on little but presumption.

  • Phillip Peterson

    Hi, It’s not my fault. That car in front of me stopped too quick. And I was denied a promotion because I am (fill in the blank). I thought someone else filled the tanks with gas. It’s the State’s fault because there was not a law to wear knee pads when rollerblading. I’m suing the homeowner because there wasn’t a sign warning me of a dog in the backyard when I hopped the fence. And there should have been a fence keeping me from going past the “do not enter” sign at the gorilla cage. And how was I know there was a cliff past the out of bounds line at the ski area? I’m going to sue! Sincerely, self absorbed irresponsible idiot

  • Kerry

    Thanks Bill L. for a clear and cogent response.

  • Bruce Liddel

    I won’t presume to know all the facts in this case or any other case. However, I’ve read enough about abuse of the legal system to know that such abuse is real, and it is all too common. It seems to me that awarding punitive damages to the plaintiff is way too much incentive for filing lawsuits in the first place. I agree: punitive damages should be redistributed for the common good, and kept out of the hands of the attorneys. Too often the courts serve not to dispense justice but only to reward the side with the most impressive sounding arguments. It’s hard to imagine how all the death and destruction in aviation can be caused exclusively by malicious and negligent design, when clearly pilot error and poor judgment is pervasive in the vast majority of accidents. I am not an aeronautical engineer, but I believe that an airplane in which someone cannot possibly screw-up is an airplane that will never leave the ground. If lawyers will not become more self-disciplined, I fear we will all end up with a loser-pays system like in other countries, where the little guy has no hope of getting justice in the legal system, and aviation will have proven to be nothing more than a passing fad.

  • Bob Lesage

    Bill, why do you think “predisposed animosity against the legal profession”
    exists?

    Hint, its not the legal profession, its tort lawyers taking a third and producing nothing.

  • Bill Lawrence

    I’m going to address Phillip’s silly comment separately.
    Predisposed animosity? Truthfully, I think it’s a mix of outraged anger and jealousy. We see the ambulance chasers advertising that “I’ll get all the money they have for you” and we are outraged. Also, we see the lifestyle and income of the most successful attorneys and equate them with the ambulance chasers, which is sometimes, but not always, the case. That outrages us. Then again, we work long and hard for moderate income and wonder why we can’t enjoy that kind of reward for our labor….
    The one thing that always HAS bothered me about the process is punitive damages. I understand the concept that, in order to punish (punitive) the defendant for knowingly doing whatever they did, the damages have to be truly significant when compared to their gross annual income. However, it does not seem appropriate to give that money to the plaintiff. I recall a case within the past few years where a jury awarded a northern family something like $3.6 billion in a lawsuit against someone like General Motors. Of course, the judge dramatically reduced the award. It seems to me that, while punitive damages may certainly be appropriate, these monies should be distributed to some other purpose, such as a general victim’s fund or industry safety studies or similar purposes. What is a formerly poor family going to do with a gazillion dollar award that they don’t even understand, much less have a use for? It’s like lottery winners, who, within a few years, have usually squandered he winnings and find themselves, at best, back where they were.

  • Bill Lawrence

    Now, Phillip,
    The car in front of you stopped too quick? Are you telling me you don’t know that there are literally gangs who spend their days cruising the freeways, with the sole intent of darting in front of cars and jamming on their brakes to cause an accident?
    Do you suppose there are people who HAVE been discriminated against because of their color, religion, sex, etc? Should they be denied justice?
    You thought someone else filled the tank? Did you pay someone to fill the tank and they did not do so even though they said they did and charged you for it? Should you have justice on your side?
    The laws about kneepads seem to equate to laws about seatbelts. Should I be free to avoid seatbelts because I want to take the risk, and place that same risk on my children in the rear seat. The lack of a seatbelt law would give me that right, foolish though it would be.
    Sign about the pitbull in the back yard? I suspect if it was your child who accidentally wandered into the neighbor’s yard and was killed by their pitbull, you might feel differently.
    See where I’m going? You want to show flagrant examples, but in every case, there are reasons why the legal system might become involved.
    I absolutely agree there are egregious abuses of the system. And I wish there were ways to curb them. I think de-regulating advertising by attorneys was a bad idea. But I will still argue that the legal system exists, and must exist, to protect the rights of the innocent and the victim, even if they can abuse those rights. We are never going to rid ourselves of the greedy and self-serving. They exist in the law profession, the public sector, and yes, contractors and manufacturers become greedy also. There has to be a way to right the wrongs and justly recompense the victims.

  • Chris Torbay

    Bruce,

    Clear and right on as always.

    It seems to simply come down to the fact that – in our modern world – we can’t believe there’s still such a thing as an “accident”. It must be someone’s fault. And especially when the victim is famous, we believe that suggesting they made a mistake reflects badly on them.

    He wasn’t a bad person. He wasn’t unskilled. He just accidentally did the wrong thing.

    CT

  • Ken Lane

    Here’s the cold, hard, honest truth… They got stupid, they got killed. To blame someone else only hurts those who put many, long hours into the design and production of a very fine aircraft.

    Another comment by Dave abvoe said it best: “However, the only malfunction on that particular aircraft was a “poor connection” between the flight controls and the pilot’s seat.”

    I fear there are lawyers collecting data on the recent Skycatcher incidents waiting for a day when they can cash in on their research.

  • Gregg Monaco

    The flight crew — operating in limited visibility, low clouds, and not wanting to be on flight following — opted to turn into the concrete canyon of skyscrapers vs. the open water of wide rivers. This is not a mechanical problem for the Cirrus, other than the interface linkage between “hands on the flight controls and cranium”. In such a maneuver, airplanes are supposed to be smitten by cumulo-concrete and people are supposed to die; for it to be otherwise is to defy all laws of nature, and particularly the aeronautical subset of physics. The pilot- owner failed to apply his student pilot training lessons relative to mVFR; the passenger is equally culpable in that he held a flight instructor certificate and acted more like an unsuspecting passenger than a proactive flight instructor.

    Bruce Lansburg is correct: surviving pilots, manufacturers, and insurance companies lose. Given the way insurance economics are going, there may not be insurers left. Given all the general aviation manufacturing layoffs, there may not be manufacturers left. Thank-you litigators and grievers for adding yet another layer of overhead fees upon surviving pilots; you may just make all general aviation become static displays because of exhorbitant costs.

  • Steven Scher

    Hi Bruce,
    I could not agree with you more. As the old joke goes: What do you call a thousand attorneys on the bottom of the ocean, answer: a good start.
    Steven Scher

  • Stu

    I brief this accident as part of an Airmanship presentation. That corridor is basically 2,000′ wide in the area of the accident. At 100 kts and 45 degrees of bank, an aircraft (any aircraft) will have a turn radius of 1,000 ft, and that does not allow for roll in and roll out. They hit the apparement building about 350 ft above the ground level but the open corridor under the Class B airspace goes all the way up to 1,100 ft as I recall. Bad idea to fly up the East River, bad idea to fly so low (FARs), bad idea not to pull up. They could have climbed nearly 700 ft and still not have penetrated the Class B. Situational awareness, spacial orientation, common sense!

  • http://MSN JIM LOMBARDO

    KNOW YOUR AIRPLANE COMPLETELY ,,,,,,,YES KNOW YOUR AIRPLANE.
    KNOW THE AREA YOU ARE FLYING TO OR IN . YOU CAN’T EXPECT A HIGH
    PERFORMANCE PLANE LIKE A SR-22 TO DO WHAT A C-150 CAN..THEY ALL HAVE THERE LIMITATIONS…KNOW THEM SAD CASE ..SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED…..

    AOPA MEMBER SINCE 1978 PILOT SINCE 1976 LEARN FROM OTHER’S MISTAKES AND TRY NOT TO MAKE NEW ONES………..JIM

  • Brian Peck

    At the end of your editorial about the Cory Liddle lawsuit you state: “I am confused by this whole “truth and justice” thing. Opportunistic lawsuits clearly seem to be the American Way.
    Your thoughts?”

    Don’t be confused, because you are right. Opportunistic lawsuits are clearly the “American Way”, or at least, they are the way of American trial lawyers.

    Among any group of life forms on the planet, there are those that can best be characterized as the top predators. Examples would be lions, crocodiles, raptors (birds), raptors (dinosaurs), some viruses (polio, smallpox, Ebola), some bacteria (bubonic or pneumonic plague, MRSA, clostridium botulinum), sharks, and lawyers.

    The commonality these creatures share is the ability to feed regardless of the cost to others. This is a sort of supreme selfishness, and achieves the ultimate biological goal of survival, which, in reality, is the ultimate biological goal of all life forms.

    In many ways, we lesser creatures, meaning those of us who are weak enough to actually care about the welfare of others, have to offer a grudging respect for that sort of survival instinct. After all, sharks have survived for many millions of years, far longer than the average example of the species Homo sapiens. And lawyers will too.

    Brian Peck, MD
    Waterbury, CT

  • http://aopa Gerald Lembas

    I simply can not believe that the family of Cory Lidle would lower their love of a lost family member because some unscrupulous attorney claiming that he or she could get them the full amout of lost wages ss a result of a mistake made by either Cory or his instructor. I am dumbfounded to say the least. But then again, we have a whole bunch of misguided voters who supported B.O. and are now wishing they had not. In any event, I hope that common sense prevails, and that the courts will decide what or whom is responsible for the tragedy.

  • http://aopa Gerald Lembas

    See Previous reply.

  • Bill Harrison

    I am a retired 72 year old aircraft mechanic, and a pilot (comm., inst., multi-eng. with a whopping 1650 hours over 48 years) and I completed my IA renewal today. I know Tyler Stanger the instructor turned passenger on that fateful day, and worked along side of him for several years maintaining airplanes. We both believed in the same one true God mentioned on our American money and in our pledge of allegience. (Oh, and in the Bible He authored also). This country was built by people like Tyler who were risk takers. They knew about what happens when one messes with natural (God’s) laws–and breaks them. They didn’t blame somebody else if the mistake was theirs. And they certainly would not try to get rich off some trumpted up mistake on the part of the manufacturer of____________whatever, you name it, to line their own pockets. One other writer mentioned the Golden Rule. Well, I did not know the pilot, though I had heard that Tyler was teaching him to fly–in Tyler’s own C-172 which he bought and maintained at our place of work. I just want you, who ever you are, to think of all of this in the terms in which I think Tyler would be thinking, right now. There is too much evidence in this country that people want to worship people who have money and it doesn’t seem to matter if the money was received legally or by stepping on somebody else. This goes for people in nearly every walk of life including those who gamble and plan to win the lottery or politicians or lawyers or car makers or teachers or aircraft maintenance operators or even “church” leaders. We need to learn from this incident where each of us has contributed to the sad state of affairs in our country–and our world. How can we be part of the cure? Tyler was a hard working, thorough teaching, God fearing young man who did not intend to jepordize his newly married wife and child, nor did he want to hurt his good friend, Mr. Lidle, who was also recently married with a child. They were out for a Sunday afternoon pleasure ride in the fast new plane with all the fancy new avionics none of which either of them were thoroughly familiar, before their vacation in the Big Apple drew to a close. Then it happened. I like Tyler.

    I’m sure I would have liked Tylers friend, and previous student. Not because of the potential salary that friend might make–baring unforseen accidents, or health problems, or something else, but because of the American image he upheld–baseball. God gave me the privilege of flying in Rhodesia for nearly ten years in support of evangelistic work and medical and humanitarian efforts. I have had a burning desire all my life of using light aircraft throughout the world in the ways they are used in many foreign countries today, but because of the
    selfish attitude of many, and the fear of liability suits our “land of the free and home of the brave” is legislating our light plane useage farther and farther away. I first met Tyler when he returned from Alaska after his two year mission for his church. May each of us be content with a little less money, and credit, and look around for someone to befriend and lift up rather than stepping on anyone else. Right now both Mr. Lidle and Mr. Stanger would want you to know Jesus Christ, and what He can do for you. God bless their families, and their parents and their fans and their fellow aviators and you. He has truly blessed me. (an AOPA member for 44 years).

  • Brian Derby

    Great points. It is frivolous lawsuits like this that drive the price for flying and any other product, service, and hobby out of range for the average person who would otherwise love to do what we do. Aircraft manufacturers are held to high standards, having to go through expensive testing and design scrutiny, then to have to deal with this? It was a judgment error on the pilots. I will mis a great ball player, but this lawsuit will not undo what is done.

  • Eric

    Such a Shame!!

    And for the lawer who responded about these cases being defended by “well funded insurance companies”… who do you think pays the pemiums for insurance? You, and your like are parasites. Go away!

    Claims like this are insulting and destructive to everybody involved, except the lawers.

    In a similar case, when the NTSB report actually cited neglegence on the pilots part, the surviving family of the at fault pilot sued everyone. While not such an astonishing amount as this case, the settlement was for $1.5 Million because it was cheaper for the insurance company than defending against the claim.

    The induvidual sued was not even involved in the accident but was sued because they had insurance.

    The lawyers paid themselves first. They made 60% in the settlement and the family was paid last; after costs, legal fees, and taxes the family was left with less than $15,000. The family admits in the end they felt used and betrayed by their “representation” and sueing was not worth their trouble.

    I am sure their lawer still feels it was a good idea to sue, especially after cashing that $9 million check.

  • Ron Stearney

    It definately stinks when you get sued and are blameless. Its an even greater shame when you get injured and cannot recover anything. The costs for pursuing this type of case are enormous. The majority of attorneys will not take this type of case. Insurers never want to settle quickly and do put up quite a fight. If there is a quick settlement, its because the defense attorney found out something that the defendant does not want anyone to know about. If there is a confidentiality agreement, then you can be sure that is the case.

    Just remember this, the risk of loss is on the attorney, not on the family. The family has nothing to lose and everything to gain. If there is someone who does not want to accept blame, its the family.

    Everyone talks a big game about not suing until they suffer the loss. Then, they are the first ones on the phone.

  • John Oakes

    You nailed it Bruce, this is all about opportunistic lawyers and is definitely the norm now and the American Way, unfortunately. These types of lawsuits are ALL about money and have nothing to do with “truth and justice.” Unfortunately I think that is what our entire judicial system is turning into, it’s disgraceful. I don’t know how these people sleep at night.

  • Mario Catgenova

    Let the Frivolous Law Suits begin.

    Pilots family sues airplane manufacture. The Flight instructor’s family sues PIC’s family citing the fact that he had near the hours to qualify for the ailine posistion he was going to apply for which would have greatly increased thier income. The residents sue the family of the PIC for thier losses as well as thier emotional distress. Building owner sues the family of the PIC as the deal for the sale of the building fell through due to accident and the increase of his insurance due to possible future structural problems. The motorists and pedestrians sue the PIC’s family for damages and emotional distress. Let’s not forgett that because VFR altitude minimums were not maintained, had the pilot in command survived, fines would have been levied by the FAA to set example and to help pay for the cost of the investigation. And last but not least. The family then sues the attorney who initally convinced them it was a good idea to sue the aircraft manufacture. Citing that he reminded the rest of the people who were effected by the accident that someone should be held responsible. Causing them to iniate thier lawsuits aginst thier family and forcing them into bankruptcy.

  • Ed Livermore

    Bruce: I agree. This is another example of an attempt to achieve “legalized robbery at the court house”. We all lose from this lousy litigation system we have in this country.

  • Lance De Foa

    Many good comments.
    Here are some principles to consider:

    1. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes, at least to the extent my brother will let me.

    How can this help a manufacturer avoid lawsuits? Keep no secrets relating to safety. What snags had to be overcome for certification? Are there items being investigated for an AD? Publish them and the satisactory solution as early as possible. Owners and their mechanics can monitor those items and provide longitudinal evidence of the success or not of the applied solutions and the reality or not of the potential problems. Partnering together, they can ensure that the only thing on the aircraft likely to have a failure causing injury or death is the pilot.

    This is part of the “culture of safety” that Transport Canada Aviation (and I believe the FAA) is trying to foster. The goal is not assigning blame (and legal liability) for an incident or accident but to prevent reccurence of the event and avoid disaterous future outcomes.

    2. “Husbands, love your wives” (and vice versa) and children. That means “put their interests first,” not “buy them flowers & chocolates.”

    How can insurers and pilots help avoid frivolous lawsuits, and how does that help me love my wife? If they’ll provide then I can purchase enough insurance. Why is it that aircraft insurance policies cover every passenger’s life in the aircraft but not the pilot? Why not have life & lost future income included as part of the policy? Certainly the actuaries can come up with stats to calculate a reasonable premium for that. Just as it is illegal to fly an aircraft that lacks public liability insurance, perhaps the regulations should require that one’s family will be provided for also. Maybe each pilot as onwer or renter ought to be required to have proof of such insurance? (I’m not looking for ways to make flying more expensive, but perhaps by distributing premiums to each owner/pilot in this way manufacturer liability insurance won’t be such a large component – someone suggested it was 1/3 – of the price of a new aircraft. Those who underwrite aircraft manufacturers also underwrite pilots and aircraft owners, so having everyone adequately insured can help avoid the cost of lawsuits to access those insurance funds.)

    Perhaps the young, optimistic, highly paid ball-player met his untimely death without adequate life insurance (or it didn’t cover death while piloting), so his widow may have no choice but to pursue all reasonable sources of income to provide for their children (especially if any nest-egg of investments has plummeted in value lately). That reminds me I need to raise my life insurance coverage higher up my to-do list (and make sure piloting is included), after all I’ve had a enough “close calls” over the years doing various things.

    3. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” N.B. not money itself, but the love of it.

    Tort reforms, such as making the loser of a frivolous case pay costs (perhaps an objective “investigation of merit” stage could be added to help avoid unnecessary proceedings), a cap on the amount of legal fees claimable, and the awarding of the “punitive” component of damages payable to an appropriate third party (in this case something that will foster increased aircraft & pilot safety) can help take the “love of money” part out of the process when a lawsuit becomes the only way to achieve justice.

    To avoid being a target of those who love money, companies can learn from the past mistakes of others when it comes to admission or denial of liability. Firstly, they need to learn to not love money so much themselves. Consider the famous “hot McDonald’s coffee” case sited by another commentator. I recently learned that the plaintiff had initially approached McDonald’s simply for them to cover her medical costs. They refused. McDonald’s lawyers fought to deny any and all responsibility. However, in court the plaintiff’s lawyer showed they were at least partly responsible for the severity of her injury because their company policy was to have their coffee significantly hotter than that of their competitors. Had she spilled any other take-out coffee on herself her burns, and medical expenses, would have been less. Essentially the jury, who saw that McDonald’s “hotter” coffee had played a role, punished McDonald’s for their poor judgement in the treatment of their customer. If they had been compassionate rather than in denial when initially presented with her claim the press would praised them for corporate citizenship, rather than showing what cheapskates they were. Better to spend a few thousand for good relations than a few million because of bad! (McDonald’s coffee is not any hotter than the average take-out coffee now.)

    If Cirrus knew of a potential control problem that could have had a role in this crash, they should have made sure the NTSB investigated that specific issue. Then, when the NTSB ruled the crash “pilot error” they could have sent widow Lidle a letter of condolence AND SOME CASH (perhaps in a trust fund for the kids’ college education), saying even though the report absolved them in the incident they wished to help out in her family’s time of need. Such good will goes a long way to preventing an unfounded lawsuit (and could help them sell a few more aircraft to husbands with nervous wives).

    4. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”

    Others have mentioned that (except perhaps for the first instance of a catastrophic failure of a key part) most “accidents” are the result of a chain of decisions. Each decision affects the available future options. The only way to never be involved in an aviation accident is to never fly in an aircraft or live under an airway or approach path.

    Often, the first decision in the chain of decisions that leads to an aviation related death is this: “I want to become a pilot.” Note, the Devil DIDN’T make me do it, so maybe we ought to have our loved ones (or at least those who might think of suing someone shoud we die doing something) sign an disclaimer that they “understand” (i.e. they don’t have to consent or condone) that our participation in that activity has an inherent risk of death, and except where official investigations have indicated negligence on behalf of a third party, they should not launch a suit in that event. That could keep my mother from suing someone if my flying deprives her of the enjoyment of a future grandchild. (Of course, Canadian’s don’t usually launch such sort of suits. But we don’t have the “pursuit of happiness” in our constitution. Well, I’m sure THAT’s not the cause, but there must be something that makes citizens of the USA more likely to launch a suit than citizens of any other nation on the planet. As others have mentioned, LAWSUITS are part of YOUR CULTURE.)

    How to change the culture to accept that individuals are personally responsible? Perhaps this simple statement placed on everything from baseballs, climbing shoes, bicycles, canoes, kayaks, automobiles, piloted balloons, and of course experimental or certified aircraft could help. (It should probably appear on every 6-pack and package of peanuts – or any other food that can be thrown and caught in an open mouth -too.):

    “Any use of this item (correctly or incorrectly through normal function or malfunction) could result in your death. If such risk is unacceptable, do not use or participate in its use.”

    Maybe a “risk estimator” could be added to the AOPA flight planner, where the pilot could input ratings, years since licence, total & past 3/6/12 months hours, hours at night, hours IMC, type of aircraft, hours on type, etc.. & forecast weather conditions for the route of flight. That flight profile could be matched to the FAA accident database and and data on aircraft movements (surely such exist) to come up with an estimate of success for the proposed flight. So, maybe the 200 hour VFR pilot with only 20 hours night flying proposing a night flight in November over mountanous terrain in the new-to-him (yep, testosterone is a factor in poor decision making) Mooney could see that he has a 1 in 5 chance of CFIT, and decide to wait until morning. I wonder what the calculated risk would have been for Cory Lidle’s flight?

  • Gerald Wade

    I agree with Roger Bohl’s comment, “How about some specific help?”
    Could someone set up a defense fund to which people could contribute. Such a fund might discourage Cirrus’ lawyers from settling the case. It might even inspire the plaintiff to drop the suit. Any unused funds could go to the Air Safety Foundation.

  • http://www.suttonjames.com Jonathan Doolittle

    As a former New York city seaplane pilot, I think that particular piece of airspace should be left to the professionals in seaplanes and helicopters.

    As a new owner of an SR-22 and 30- year flight instructor, I was impressed with Cirrus’ comprehensive approach to training. From what reading I have done about Cirrus accidents, the huge majority seem to be pilot accidents, rather than airplane accidents.

    As an aviation insurance broker and former underwriter, I don’t think that any of us want to live in a world where manufacturers go completely unchallenged by the plaintiff’s bar. Say what you like, the threat of lawsuits has made the airplanes and helicopters that all of us fly much safer. At the same time, our cultural unwillingness to take responsibility and the propensity of judges to award ludicrous amounts of money have created an environment in which it is a wonder that anyone manufactures anything.

    If insurance companies paid the higher cost of defending cases, and stopped settling when it was less costly and uncertain, there would be fewer frivolous suits. If losers had to pay the court costs and attorney’s fees for both sides, it might also force the plaintiff’s bar to take a more realistic look at the cases people are bringing to them.

  • Don Phillips

    Answer to Bill Lawrence:
    Look Bill, the basic problem this country is facing now is lack of personal responsibility. Sure, if someone’s negligence causes an accident, the victim should be made whole. But common sense has to prevail. Having a right to sue means having a responsibility not to sue unless a reasonable question of fault is in extant. Slamming your new plane into a bldg b/c you are inexperienced DOES NOT QUALIFY!

    Secondly, law schools graduate more lawyers than can ever been honestly employed, thus, the lawsuit sweepstakes. And another thing, no number of lawyers can make the world entirely safe and happy and to pretend that such a state can exists is patent FRAUD.

    The neighborhood pool can no longer have a high dive b/c somewhere, someone was horseplaying andfell off one and got hurt. So, let’s forget about the millions upon millions of kids who have jumped or dived off of a three meter board safely and SUE SOMEONE b/c tragedy befell our family. So goes the thinking of our current crop of legal minds.

    Now, I have no personal animus against anyone. My father was and my wife is an attorney. But a country inwhich everything is illegal (or subject to litigation) is a country in which nothing is illegal (and no one is liable) and we are quickly heading in that direction.

    I strongly urge Bill Lawrence to quit petting his credentials and fondling his degrees and go read a book on the subject. Three excellent places to start would be Philip K. Howard’s “The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America,” “The Collapse of the Common Good: How America’s Lawsuit Culture Undermines our Freedom” and “Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law.”

  • Michael Farrell, CRNA, MS

    I am the owner/pilot of an SR22 Centennial as well as anesthetist. In both of my endeavours, cause and effect has never been a prerequisite for litigation. Welcome to my world, ladies and gentleman

  • Michael Farrell, CRNA, MS

    I am the owner/pilot of an SR22 Centennial as well as anesthetist. In both of my endeavours, cause and effect has never been a prerequisite for litigation. Welcome to my world, ladies and gentlemen.

  • Bill Lawrence

    Lance de Foa: A lot of comments. Very rational. Lance doesn’t take either side. He simply lays out groundrules that should apply, and I agree with every one of ’em.

    Don Phillips: The reason I put a mini-CV in there was because I wanted you to know that I actually know what I’m talking about as opposed to the mass of these responses who speak from their hearts, albeit with apparent rage and a lot of animus. All I was really trying to do was get folks to see that there are two sides to these issues and not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Every system in this country was established with, at the time, clear intent. Pretty much every system has failed to achieve that clear result. That is because we are human and a large number of humankind put their interests above that intended. The legal profession is no different than any other. There are fine lawyers and there are rotten lawyers. I know my share of both. There are attorneys I have refused to work for, and others I truly admire. Like most professions, it is the small putrid minority that gets most of the media coverage.

    And, just for your consideration, it isn’t the lawyers that set the laws that they are both tasked with upholding and allowed to circumvent, depending on the circumstance. It is the legislature. If you have a real complaint about this, talk to your senator or congressman. But be aware that they, like these lawyers you dislike, have their own interests at heart rather than yours and they vote dollars, not common sense.

    Enough! again. I’ve said more than I intended.

  • Don Phillips

    Answer to Bill Lawrence

    Sorry, but you have me mistaken for someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I need no lectures from you about who writes the law.

    Unfortunately, it’s the gang of lawyers dominating Congress who write them. They are such an admirable bunch they are unable to gin up the moral initiative to put the country’s interst above their own long enough to pass significant tort reform.

    So, if you know of any non-lawyers who can be elected, or any legal geniuses who could bring themselves to pass meaningful tort reform, please clue us in.

    Otherwise, attorney’s have only themselves to blame. After all, they are the main contributors to the party which is slowly removing the concept of personal responsibility from public life. And, in turn, rapidly destroying the moral fabric of our country. Thanks a lot.

  • tom Laitala

    We could stop this lawsuit foolishness very easily if we adopt the policy that the loser pays the legal costs for both sides. The American public would be the winner in all walks of life except for the law profession. Sadly, with the current situation, they are the only winners and they win ever time at our expense. Almost all other developed countries have this system in place and they have far fewer problems than the USA.

  • RICHARD WYEROSKI

    A Tragedy like this hurts us all. If only more could be done to stop it before it happens. FAA pays more attention to the Airlines and Charter companies then to the so called 91 operators for obvious reasons. If a large aircraft has an accident, hundreds of people die at the same time! THIS GETS MEDIA ATTENTION….IT SCARES THE HELL OUT OF THE FAA! FAA reacts to accidents and incidents. When an accident happens FAA reacts with an investigation. FAA has be called a reactive agency. It means that FAA reacts, but they really do not know what to do to stop the problem! Sounds crazy but it is a fact. I blame FAA management that are appointed to the job with very little qualifications to be effective in that job. We have all seen this in the recent Southwest Airlines mess, with aircraft flying with “CRACKS” and the “grounding” of American Airlines stranding 250, 000 people and costing 30 million dollars, all because the FAA lost control and has become dysfunctional!

    The safety programs offered to the pilot population are there to try and lower the accident rate. Unfortunately the same people always go to these meetings and the problem pilots wind up on the news. I attend these meeting and rarely see new faces.

    The death rate in 91 operations is a consistent 6-800 people killed every year and it has not changed, if one bases the number on flying hours. This is equal to (3) 737 crashing every year. Imagine the uproar in the new media if (3) airliners went down every year! FAA management would be burned at the stake!

    Until the FAA stops being a reactive agency with 91 operations, the accident rate will continue to climb.

    If pilots are forced to attend at least one or two safety seminars a year and be required to fly a minimum number of hours a year, this situation will not change.

    I know it sounds harsh and unfair and people will scream about the cost, but one fatal accident cost millions and the loss of life from stupidity is not acceptable.

    Lastly, the fact that a flight instructor was aboard this aircraft, makes this accident even more of a slap at the FAA. A flight instructor obviously should not let something like this happen, yet it did happen ? why is the big word here , how could this happen??. All FAA could do is look at the certification process for instructors and try to find where the problem is. There are no easy solutions here!

    Qualified FAA management is the answer. When key FAA people are appointed for their qualifications and know how there will be a reductions in the accident rate.

    I vote for CAPTAIN “SULLY” for head of FAA !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    thank you

    Richard Wyeroski

  • Steve Reeves

    Two words: Loser Pays.

    I think the British are onto something. I would imagine that 98% of pending cases would be dropped. 45 mil? Let’s see….that’s 40% attorney’s cut (after expenses of course). The family stands to make at least 100K from this!

    I do believe that anyone deserves their day in court, but as someone in the medical profession, this is the primary reason that a $10 piece of equipment sells for $250. Much for the same reason that your average new spam can sells for over $300K for about $150K worth of airplane (I’m being generous). I have flown experimentals for some time, but don’t think this culture hasn’t trickled over to our end as well. I have seen more than one beautiful flying aircraft parted out and the airframe destroyed for fear of selling. As any attorney can probably tell you, a hold harmless agreement in most cases isn’t worth the paper it is written on. You may still be sued. You may win. But it will still cost you a fortune.

  • Ron Stearney

    Two Words: Loyalty Oath

    Everyone here shoud immediately contact their estate planning attorneys and execute an advanced directive to their estate forbidding the estate from suing on their behalf in the event they off themselves flying. Moreover, each and ever passenger should sign a waiver as well. These waivers are being upheld around the country and should be part of each and every griper’s checklist.

    This way, if you kill yourself, then your estate can’t sue. Your wife and kids can sue for their loss of consortium claims, emotional distress, boo hoo, etc., if they refuse to sign their covenants not to sue. Your passengers cannot sue if they signed their waivers. Oh yeah, they will try, but it will sure make it harder.

    One last thing, your estate’s covenant’s not to sue should be filed with AOPA with an agreement that if AOPA has to pay an attorney to fight your family, it comes out of your estate. That way, the real loser will pay.

  • Marshall Sanders

    i am a lawyer and a former pilot (health problems). I am not an engineer, but while science is better than average with regard to airplanes, there are usually two sides to every story. I will be the first to admit that there is an economic component to every personal injury claim. I can say however, that in every medical malpractice claim and in every claim involving a plane, the cost to the lawyer is not insignificant. An attorney does not have to lose very many cases to “go broke.” As for “nuisance” settlements, they are not as common as the public believes. Having said that however and from what I read in the papers (a poor way to learn anything) I would not have done what Mr. Little appears to have done.

  • baron boxer

    I know that I’m preaching to the choir, but here goes:
    1. When I was involved in building Part 23 trainers, more than $ 30K per plane went to product liability insurance. The premium never declined although no claim was ever made before the company went out of business. In any future endeavor, the real assets will be in a ” judgement proof” jurisdiction. It is undoubtedly a reason why some manufacturing has moved to Third World countries.
    2. Tort litigation is a huge industry that produces little more than a redistribution of wealth and a gross misallocation of resources. It’s not just the premiums but also the needless expense of CYB practised by the healthcare industry, many manufacturers and professionals as well as the employment of defense lawyers, investigators, real and other “experts” and the unwillingness to introduce in the marketplace products and services because they are potentially too “dangerous” in the eyes of a weak judge or an impressionable jury.Incidentally, settlements can be just as damaging as losing in a trial, despite what the lawyers tell you.
    3. Personal responsibility died in the 1950’s. It is symptomatic of the decline of our Nation. We want everything but we refuse to accept the consequences.(or pay for it).That mentality must change if flying and healthcare are ever to become affordable again.
    4.I wish Cirrus good luck, but I know that the cards are stacked against the “deep pocket” especially if it is from out of town.

  • Bob H.

    As long as AOPA wants to be an apologist for Cirrus marketing and the dollars they provide, ahem! (is there any COI there? no-o-o-o-o, of course not wink wink nod nod)…

    Puh-lease!

    The manufacturer and the FAA have indicated, ex-post-facto that the product was in fact defective. We’ll never know – the airplane was a charred, compressed, mess.

    Nevertheless, let’s all get our facts straight before excoriating the survivors.

    It’s convenient to cry foul, but lacks any critical cognition of the plausible. I realize there is a certain chicken and egg problem in the scenario; neither begets the other. Insisting elsewise is unproductive, arrogant and embarrassing.

  • http://stevewilsonblog.com Stephen Wilson

    I was interviewed about this on local radio a day or two after it happened. Interesting to go back to that time. Concerns of terrorism were abound.
    http://stevewilsonblog.com/2008/01/10/ksoo-interviews-steve-wilson-re-cory-lidle-cirrus-crash-nyc.aspx

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