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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144 Responses to “More Lawsuit Foolishness”

  1. Rick Beach Says:

    Bruce, good points! And Cirrus Aircraft has been steadfast in defending product liability lawsuits without losing such a claim yet.

    Minor correction. Your reference to the SR22 coming out of maintenance with misrigged controls that resulted in a parachute pull sounds like N1223S piloted by Lionel Morrison in October 2002. That airplane was not misrigged but suffered a maintenance induced failure. The mechanic failed to safety wire a nut on the aileron hinge bolt. The aileron became unhinged and the pilot feared loss of control and pulled the CAPS parachute handle.


  2. Bob Davidson Says:

    Product liability stopped production of personal aircraft once already. Liability is strict and leaves no room for error when end of life results due the a product, that is as it should be.

    Let us all hope the proper light is shed on on this tragedy to clear the air, no pun intended.

  3. Ricardo Villamil Says:

    Bruce, I couldn’t agree with you more, this “who can I sue” society is depressing…On the way to Logan Airport in Boston there’s a big sign marketing an attorney’s firm called…I can’t believe there are people, business people, who can base their business on such degrading idea…

    I obviously support fairness, and I think companies should pay when they make a mistake, but I think we’ve just gone to the extreme of “the customer is always right” idea.

  4. Paul Weintraub Says:

    That is so much crap! I am a CFI, and I fly the corridor and actually snuck down the east river once at about 500 ft (shhhhh) in a Saratoga and I was really astounded at how narrow it was. Even on a good day, he would have had trouble making the turn but with the wind blowing him into the buildings, he had no chance. He had many options, but perhaps being a low time pilot, he did not want to look foolish so he didn’t do the obvious.

    Hello LaGuardia, I can’t make the turn as indicated to the left, request right turn.
    Hello LaGuardia, I can’t make the turn as indicated, request climb straight ahead
    Hello LaGuardia, I can’t make the turn as indicated, or

    Aviate, navigate, communicate.

    Hello LaGuardia, Emergency, could not make the turn as indicated, am proceeding straight ahead at 1000 ft to the Hudson River.

    Better look foolish and live than prove you are foolish by dying.

  5. Don Paul Says:

    Looks to me like another “ambulance chaser” is wishing for a quick settlement and a “fast buck.”

  6. Josh Hopkins Says:

    I am an attorney who practices in the area of Product Liability and also a pilot and AOPA member. I also fly a SR 22 and think it is a great plane. That being said our legal system is open to all and this family who lost their loved one in this accident should have their day in court to seek recovery if they can prove this case. From my own experience to prove one of these cases take hundreds of thousands of dollars and well qualified experts and experienced and skilled legal team. One must prove that the design is defective and unreasonably dangerous and that the defect caused the accident. Needless to say it is often an uphill battle for the plaintiff against a well funded insurance company paid defense.

  7. Bob Maxey Says:

    This is another disgusting attempt to not accept personal responsibility. Cases like this led Cessna to stop manufacturing single engine planes for many years. This isn’t about product liability, it is about someone making a poor decision in an aircraft, which is often very costly in life and materials. I echo what Paul Weintraub said – ask LaGuardia for permission to deviate into their airspace. What would have been the worst case had he deviated without permission? In the extreme, there could have been a mid-air, but not likely if the intrusion was minor, as it likely would have been. Without permission, he may have faced some disciplinary action, but would have lived to fly another day.

  8. Tom Cartier Says:

    The mentality that allows anyone to sue anyone with impunity, goes to the complete lack of responsibility for our own decisions. Of course the courts outlandish awards based on the ability to pay, on the part of the defendents, in these suits, lend to fueling the greed that all humans have to a point of violating ones principles and common sense.

    The fact that we have more lawyers than can ever be gainfully employed also contributes to the willingness on their part to sacrifice their principles.

  9. Bruce Clark Says:

    When this incident occured the discussions/speculation (based on reports at the time) among a group of pilots, which we still believe was the issue –reviewing the avionics while operating in a congested low altitude environment, a complex aircraft with little or no experience with the onboard equipment, and/or the AC itself.

    This seems to be a great loss of life due to the lack of Proper Training.

    It seems it is always someone else’s fault when a mistake is made-Does anyone disagree? Let the jury review the training–

  10. Jeff Graber Says:

    There are a lot of terms you could throw around here, including strict liability. In the US, if you build or fix something and something bad happens to it, you have to prove that what you built or fixed didn’t cause the problem. This is exactly why we needed GARA back in the 90’s and it’s also why it’s so very very hard to produce a new certified aircraft here. Cirrus already no doubt pays a fortune for product liability insurance and that drives up the cost of their aircraft, too.

    Insurance makes it possible to do the business, but as the litigiousness of society increases, so do insurance premiums and that keeps all but the most well-heeled innovators out of the aviation business.

    It’s sad, really. I hope Cirrus wins this one and I hope that someday soon we can get some tort reform that allows honest businesses to sell their products without having to live in a constant state of fear.

  11. Chris Says:

    Right! We are in desperate need of tort reform.
    Two other thoughts on the subject of reform:
    – Losser pays
    – If not to fix the problem, punitive damages should go to some other greater good INSTEAD of lining the pockets of greedy attorneys and plantiffs.

  12. David Krusmark Says:

    I totally agree with you on some points such as unneccesary lawsuits.
    But I must disagree with you concerning Cirrus.
    I have been a MN resident most of my life and this companies disregard for safety and quality are not true to MN or humanity.
    They have known about the control freezing problem but refused to admit to a design flaw.
    If you examine the accident reports for these planes it shows the problem has been there for sometime but they want to write it off to wrong deplorement of the parachute( which only was added because the FAA would not allow production without it because of so many dead test pilots).
    I personally have spoken with one of the few surviving pilots of the controls freezing and was told how he was treated and liability was avoided.
    Recently when a friend of mine was to have his Cirrus in for the final factory check I asked him to mention the control freezing problem.
    He reported back how when he brought it up you could tell the mechanic had been trained how to answer precisely. That there was no problem that they are aware of however due to consumer concern this is what they are doing. My friend then went on to tell and show me the modification.
    I understand you cannot get everything right the first time. Any aviation company that burys it head in the sand to avoid liability and the cost to fix the problem needs to be dealt with firmly to save GA aviations reputation and most importantly the precious lives we carry.
    Flight Instructor
    David Krusmark

  13. Frank Hinde Says:

    Shame on them!

    Another example of the rich trying to get richer..And who does this hurt?..Not only Cirrus buyers but the low waged workers who will have fewer jobs because the airplane costs will rise. This was a tragic accident but please don’t force a small company to layoff more workers in these troubled economic times..I’m sure the family doesn’t need the $45m to survive…Spoken as someone who won’t have a tenth of that amount after a lifetime of work!

  14. jeff luboff Says:

    Hey, as a pilot with app 18000 hours in light aircraft,mostly over the water,only 1 ditching,and few problems that could cause catastropic flight issues, that really pisses me off.did they not protect themselfs with life insurance?certainly not for lack of money.its ironic how many libs feel the system owes them, making it that much harder for the hard working little guy, please, cirrus, dont settle!!!Jeff

  15. Wayne Mansfield Says:

    This corridor is extremely narrow, and there as a courtesy to people who know what they’re doing. They should have never attempted the turn in a CIrrus any more than if it had been a biz-jet. They did not have to fly into a building, but did so anyway. Now everyone in aviation is paying for this. A little common sense would replace millions of dollars in litigation, a part of which every pilot is now going to pay for. Sorry, but I disagree with the attorney suggesting that this lawsuit is OK. It isn’t; and I for one, resent it. As for “well funded” insurance companies, I suggest a glimpse at the news from the past 6 months.

  16. Erald Says:

    This is all such a crap. I really getting lost with this attitude, which I do not understand. How can you do anything if there are always this kind of people suing everything and everybody.

    When flying in the USA I notice that everybody is afraid to be sued for something if they touch a plane. This is just foolish and do not understand the system is even working for those guys. It is not only costing cirrus a small capital, just to defend to these stupid allegations, but it is costing the community also a lot.

    Result is people are not willing to do anything anymore or they need high insurance, so higher costs. The law should avoid these kind of things.

  17. Jon Says:

    Everybody deserves their day in court (if you can afford it), so they have every right to sue, but I think it will be hard to prove that it wasn’t just pilot error. All I can do is speculate, but as a low time pilot myself I know that in congested airspace things can get pretty challenging even in the bug smashers I fly, and the Cirrus is definitely more airplane than a 152/72. Sounds like the guy got in a bind in an aircraft he couldn’t handle. They better be careful because it might be easier for somebody to claim damages on them…

  18. Gary Baluha Says:

    I think it’s a shame that our society has gotten to the point where it accepts frivolous lawsuits like these. Certainly, people have the right to sue for damages when necessary and warranted, but it seems too often that the people that deserve to receive damages, don’t, and those that don’t, but have the cash to support long, drawn-out lawsuits, do. Unfortunately for the aviation industry, even winning a case can still have negative implications if it means the public view it as “yet another case of big money beating the little guy” (even if the “little guy” is big money anyway). And with the media willing to bash aviation at the drop of a hat, the last thing we need is more unwarranted negative press.

  19. Rick Says:

    Yet another ambulance chaser. Argh! The vindictive part of me says that Cirrus should countersue for $45 million in lost business resulting from the bad publicity brought about by Mr. Lidle’s poor piloting. Of course that would just make Cirrus look like the bad guy, but the thought makes me feel better.

  20. Melvyn Polatchek Says:

    From the outside looking in Lidle was flying where he had no business flying. Since there was no malfunction proved, this lawsuit should be dismissed as frivolous. However, lawyers are always going to try to make cases. Perhaps the AOPA membership, which is regularly asked for contributions, should try to put together a fund which would go towards the cost of defensive lawsuits. There would need to be some part of the organization which would investigating that we were not defending egregious negligence

    Melvyn Polatchek

  21. Jay Maynard Says:

    I have only two words for this: Lawsuit lottery. This is just another case of greedy lawyers trying to extort money out of a corporation and/or it’s insurers because something bad happened to someone using a product.

    My airplane cost an unreasonable amount of money more than it should have because of the lawsuit lottery. So did everyone else’s. So does lots of other stuff in our economy. It’s time someone reined in the lottery and ended the lawyers’ parasitic existence.

  22. Wayne Shoemaker Says:

    All lawsuits should require a payout. Those defending a lawsuit should be paid all expenses relating to the lawsuit, if they prevail, plus compensation for time lost.

  23. Frank Hinde Says:

    The solution is quite simple. Simply adopt the british system..I.e if you sue and lose, you pay the other guys costs..Then the claimant have to weigh up the likelyhood of winning, knowing the other guy won’t just settle if he has a reasonable chance of defending himself.

    But of course as the Government is run by layers who would have their businesses cut to the size they should be there is no way in hell thats ever going to happen!

  24. Michael Barber Says:

    The majority of us seem to be on the same page with ending these frivolous lawsuits. Here is my proposal, if you know a trial attorney, don’t vote them, don’t golf with them, don’t vacation with them or associate with them in any way. Let’s send a clear message that we won’t accept the way that they conduct themselves. We’re all paying for it!

  25. Chuck Says:

    Kudos to expressing your opinion in a manner that reflects the feelings of many. We have gone form a world in which negligent behavior was required for a tort action to “well it could da happen that way, prove it didn’t…” I am truly sorry for the loss for the family or any loss involving GA. I wonder how much of this is from the influence on the family of the strong desire for the percentage of the acting attorney. Wouldn’t be a bad days work…

    What is next, sueing the building contractor for not having built the building a few feet further from the river?

  26. Warren Levin Says:

    The accident happened because they did not have mountain flying experience, and in the cavern between building is much like flying in the mountains. They did not have sufficient space to turn around and ran into the building. They would have been better off busting into LGA space, they would be alive to tell about it.

  27. Mark Says:

    The economy’s in the tank, & people are losing their jobs by the thousands every month. I’m thankful that manufacturers finally started building and developing small airplanes again. This country needs the work, and a stupid lawsuit like this just hurts more people, and threatens the health of general aviation. Bottom line: Sorry for your loss, but this suit is a totally sefish act. People make mistakes and some pay the ultimate price. Don’t make the innocent pay for someone else’s bad judgement. The world doesn’t own anyone anything!

  28. Doug Townsend Says:

    Perhaps all of the Cirrus owners should sue the Lidle family for endangering our warranties and the ability to safely maintain our airplanes. Collectively we probably have $1 billion + invested in our aircraft. To file a lawsuit because Cory and his instructor made a mistake, a lawsuit that will have a negative financial impact on Cirrus regardless of the outcome, wrongly endangers our financial well bing and physical safety as well. Our $1 billion trumps your $45 million. To the Lidle family – grow up and accept the fact that he made a mistake. Yes, it is tragic. As pilots, we all hate to see these types of accidents. But if you are all so concerned about his lost awages, then just maybe he should have waited until his career was over before he started flying.

  29. John Garabedian Says:

    We finally have a US president who actually prioritizes ethics and doing what is right for the average person, not the special interests.

    With the economic crisis roaring and insurance giant AIG saved from certain bankrupcy by our government, there is now extreme pressure on the administration to eliminate waste and political corruption. This awareness could finally enable the passage of tort reform in the United States.

    Today congress passed a special law to tax $168 million in AIG bonuses 90%. Shows what can happen when there is anough of an outcry!

    It is time to be outraged by ridiculous lawsuits which cost all of us hundreds of billions of dollars which amount to pure legalized hush money. Legislating into federal US law the traditional European system of “make the loser pay legal costs” in liability lawsuits would absolutely reduce claims and frivolous insurance settlements by 75% and unclog the overloaded courts, who now take years to plod through what is mostly crap.

    This would kill most of the rich scumbag legal firms, many of whom never try a case and lock up their greedy clients who aee lured out of the ground by expensive TV ads. The 30-50% cut of settlements they wring from insurance companies is obscene and paid for by all of us.

    AOPA has the power to build a constituancy and carry the banner for this important cause. There will never be a better time!

  30. Bryce J. Larson Says:

    #1 Tort Reform

    #2 Tort Reform

    #3 Tort Reform

    The end of any bad story can get worse. Crap like this helping to destabilize an already hurt industry.Just when we thought bailout money was going to make jobs. Want Fries with that! Shakespeare was right!

    We in GA need to promote like the ski industry in Colorado did. IF not for them passing laws to cut out the greedy lawyers their wouldnt even be an industry.

    #4. Can We teach Self -Responsibility in the Home again, please? It should start as kids!

  31. John Roberts Says:

    As one who has almost 1000 hours in Cirrus aircraft (20s & 22s), and one who read all I could find about the Lidle crash back when it happened, I’m sure it was PURE Pilot/Instructor ERROR. Nuff said!

  32. Brian Smith Says:

    Well said. Unfortunately it is also very typical of the litigation that arises in the aftermath of most serious general aviation accidents with injury or fatalities and is reflective of our “bad things are always someone else’s fault” societal mentality. As an avid pilot and lawyer for many years and currently insurer for aircraft owners and maintenance facilities, this kind of litigation garbage is commonplace and more often than not successful in extorting compensation due to the high costs of defending such litigation. There will always be an “expert” who for compensation will opine anything, even in lawsuits brought against dozens of component manufacturers or maintenance facilities who could not have all caused an accident that in reality was caused by the person supposedly acting as pilot in command. Cynicism is the only intellectually honest evaluation of the evolution of our legal system and the costs it imposes but it also does reflect the overall values of the society. And remember, most of the plaintiffs come from within the same general aviation family and community.

  33. John P. Stewart Says:

    As an old pilot and safety officer, the New York accident should have been one of the easiest accidents to diagnose–They circled the wrong way. Instead of turning into the right crosswind to minimize ground track in a confined space, they turned downwind and then tried to turn crosswind to head south to track along the river. They didn’t have the room and simply blew into the building.

    In my primary days in Texas, I spent countless hours tracking around farm fields. The turn from downwind to crosswind was by far the hardest to make while holding a constant track from the field.

    I doubt any small plane could have accomplished the turn they made other than a helicopter.

  34. Greg Says:

    Without any reasonable recourse, the survivors have entered the “judicial lottery” in an attempt to ensure their own financial futures.

  35. B. Richter Says:

    Why did they turn left towards Manhattan instead of turning right and fly over Queens? Queens is primarily residential and doesn’t have the tall buildings like Manhattan.

  36. Ed Says:

    The pilot’s salary is the only reason paper was filed in this case. There’s no way Cirrus will lose — NTSB already declared it was pilot error. This case is about one thing: settlement. If you or I had been flying that plane — well, it wouldn’t have crashed, but assuming it would just to make my point — nobody would take on Cirrus for damages calculated on your or my earnings. Settlement talk would *start* south of a million, and go down quickly — not worth any good ambulance chaser’s time. Cory pulled in $3M/yr. That doesn’t make the case winnable, but it sure does make it worth negotiating over. On that point, $45M is nuts — the guy might have been worth $10-15M over his career (assuming no injuries), but that’s still way higher earnings than the average private pilot sees.

    No doubt there are big problems with tort litigation in the US, but there are no easy answers. Furthermore, we don’t advance towards any real solution by holding up very, very odd cases like this one as typical. Or by bashing the lawyers (however much fun that might be) or politicians (even more fun).

  37. Mark Kadrich Says:

    I am curious if they approached the lawyers or the lawyers approached them…

  38. Pete James Says:

    The words were taken out of my mouth. I think we should file a civil suit against the Lidle family. My understanding is that they also sued Hartzell. I have a brand new Hartzell on my RV-10. I am sure that I paid extra for my prop in order to cover frivolous lawsuits.

    Here is my request: Please publish the names and addresses of the plaintiffs. Perhaps an “outpouring” of sypathy and sentiment would bring a quick end to this lawsuit. Imagine being the Lidles and recieving 800 letters asking them to kindly drop the lawsuit, or be faced with a similar lawsuit from those of us now paying higher product and insurance prices. I will send the first letter if I can be sent the address. I’ll even send it via certified mail, restricted delivery, so that I get a signature acknowledment that they recieved it.

  39. Sandford L Weiler Says:

    Josh Hopkins (Mar. 19), an attorney who is a pilot (or is it the other way round?) says the family deserves a chance at the jackpot. It seems to me that attorneys (and complainants) are willing and eager to try for the jackpot, with unconcern for the defendant who may well incur debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense of a charge which turns out to be totally unfounded.
    Is it right to sue simply for a chance of a fortune? It seems to me that if the suit fails (is determined to be unfounded), the innocent defendant should be awarded the costs of defense, to be paid by the complainant. The tort system is prejudiced for a whiner..

  40. Darrell Yelton Says:

    Comments have refered to the NTSB/FAA investigation. It is important to note that the agency that has the best unbised experts and the budget to investigate the accident and determine probable cause, cannot be called as admissable evidence.

    I think this needs to change.

  41. Kerry Says:

    Sounds like all you folks have it figured out – kill all the lawyers and we’ll instantly be back to living in the Garden of Eden.

    Funny, after GARA passed my aircraft insurance rates didn’t go down as promised -did yours? Many of you seem to think that aircrat manufacturers are inherently ethical operators – tell that to the more than 200 families of those killed in V-tail Bonanza’s that Beech adamantly defended as the result of “pilot error.”
    Additionally, most plaintiffs lawyers take cases on contingency, meaning that if they lose – they don’t get paid. Not much incentive to file bogus claims with those odds.

    If y’all want to see what a system looks like with “tort reform” go look at Mexico or China and then tell me how wonderful it is.

  42. B. Richter Says:

    I still want to know why Cory turned left instead of right, he could have easily made a 180 back up the river. I guess he and the flight instructor on board were busy looking at the nice map display in the cockpit and not looking outside.

  43. William Reyer Says:

    I was a litigator in plaintiff cases involving medical and dental negligence (malpractice), I am also a licensed pilot with an instrument rating. I too am bothered by the prevalence of lawsuits that have no basis or merit. In medical cases there is usually a certificate or affidavit of merit from a practitioner in the medical area of interest before a case can be started. However, in plain old negligence no such affidavit acts as a gatekeeper. Add to that the freebie of contingency fees that do not cost the individual plaintiff any out of pocket expenses and are only responsible for disbursements (which hardly any plaintiffs ever pay). Blame the system if you want to. Blame the lawyers if you must. But really, put the blame on us all who have gotten used to a lottery mentality and where no one takes responsibility for just plain dumb ass moves.

  44. Paul Says:

    amazing, is all I can say. Can’t take responsibility for his own poor flying skills, so blame it on the manufacturer… Americana all the way. And now Cirrus will bear the brunt of this,defending themselves from stupidity, which we will all pay for. Too bad his lawyer wasn’t in the plane with him.

  45. Johnny Pineyro Says:

    I am a pilot and lawyer. I am curious whether the Lidle estate was sued by the passenger who apparently was not PIC? How Lidle plans to reconcile any payment made to him prior to his making Cirrus claims will be interesting to say the least. While I think this case carries I high amount of comparative fault I think we should defer to all the experts before making decisions about the lack of a design defect here. Ever wonder why the Cirrus put a parachute in the first place? The fire which consumed the aircraft making it more difficult to analyze may not be a factor since the design issues can be proven without this particular plane. This is a very expensive case to try. Who is the plaintiff’s lawyer?

  46. Paul Green Says:

    If lawsuits were handled like in Europe, there would be none of this. Europe if you lose, you have to pay all the legal fees, and costs and anything else the court may deed.
    I have flown this model airplane, and it flies and handles very well in the hands of experienced pilots. Its like anything else. You ask it to do the impossible and guess what. It may not do what you have in mind at the last minute.
    I hope Cirrus doesn’t bend on this case and they win……

  47. Bill Branch Says:

    The NTSB is certainly more capable of determiining the cause factors of an accident than a jury. Obviously, this lawsuit was undertaken for its perceived “settlement merit” rather than its legal merit.

  48. M Porter Says:

    I dont know if they still publish the charts for the Hudson/East river corridors but all the years I flew the area the charts dictated that all turns be made to the left for separation of aircraft which Im sure is why they did what they did however obviously in this case accounting for variable change ie. the wind would have made alot more sense. New York controllers are also some of the most accomodating I have ever dealt with and just a quick call for a transition without declaring an emergency through LGA would not be hard to get but if you have to declare then do it! I feel for the family and there loss but what the incident did to GA already with their poor judgement was bad enough but this is just really sad now.

  49. Larry Munch Says:

    Welcome to my world! I am a surgeon who is usually referred the most difficult cases that my colleagues feel unable to attempt (usually for good reasons). If there is not a perfect outcome, it must be my fault! Despite an outcome (as I hope in the case against Cirrus) in favor for the “defendant”, the costs cannot be measured in any rational way since the lawsuit itself is usually interpreted by the lay individual as guilt. As long as we don’t have to take responsibility for our own actions and stand to make a lot of money if we “win”, but have no penalty if we “lose”, why shouldn’t all of us hire a “personal injury attorney” to take care of all of our poor decision-making because it obviously must have been someone else’s responsibility.

  50. Frank Williams Says:

    I’m just thinking about what happened in that cockpit that day.Making a turn to the downwind side of a narrow corridor was mistake #1. As I recall there was a 30mph wind from the east.When you are in a banked condition it’s difficult to sense any lateral movement due to wind set (unlike straight and level flight where the crab is pretty apparent, but only observed in reference to a visible ground path).If they completed 180deg and were 1/4 mile from the building and the building appeared to be about some distance to the right they may have thought they were in good shape without realizing their nose was pointing 10 to 12 degrees east of their flight path. The building would appear to start to move left into their path and look like it was accelerating in that direction as they got closer to it. To avoid an impact the intuitive response would be to increase the rate of left turn.All this time they are still being offset 44fps to the right or west.If they bank steeply enough the target disappears from view under the nose and or the wing. Again the flight path is not what it seems because they are at a high angle of attack in a steep turn and are flying a path about 12degs in the target direction. They may have been looking at blue sky until the last 1/10th of a second. Cory lost this game and if he could he’d probably admit it.I wonder if the Lidles succeed in their suit and put a lot of people out of work if ex Cirrus employees couldn’t sue for lost wages.

  51. J Sharkey Says:

    As an elected official who serves on the board of several public agencies, here’s my experience defending lawsuits: if the defendant is a public entity or corporation with legal insurance, the case is referred to the insurance company which makes a determination that mounting a defense will cost x dollars. If the case can be settled for x-y dollars, then the insurance company will settle, thereby saving y dollars. It’s just arithmetic. The merits of the case don’t even come into play.

  52. Lester Says:

    Didn’t Cessna have a problem similar to this a long time ago? Some idiot flew into a box canyon and crashed. The family sued Cessna and won because the plane didn’t have shoulder straps!! Like that would have made a difference!
    When will all this end? And what can we do about it? The people that make the laws are the ones that allow things like this!

  53. Gerhard Says:

    I bet you, that they are not even wanting to go to court. They are aiming at a settlement by overshooting very high with their claim and with the attention they gain in it, it is more likely that they will get a fairly high settlement. The insurance has more say in it than anyone else. After all it won’t hurt the insurance anyways, as they will simply distribute the cost in the following year to us, the GA community. Everyone is happy except the ones who truly foot the bill. I have seen it happen.
    I witnessed a twin accident in which the pilot did not do his GUMPS check on approach in beautiful VFR conditions. He had to go around and killed himself together with his wife because the engines did not develop the power to maintain level flight. The engines were sputtering lean and at low RPM. The aircraft stalled crashed and burned in front of my eyes. He had more than 4000 hours, was even a FAA check pilot. Even after the fire the controls in the cockpit and on the engines were corresponding as typically set in cruise conditions. The stacks and plugs were all showing lean burning conditions, not one dark or wet spark plug.
    The family sued the engine overhaul company, who did the overhaul 2 years prior. I was called as a witness for litigation, but was never needed, because they settled before court.
    No wonder why one third or $100,000.00 dollars out of an airplane costing $300,000.00 goes to liability insurance on every new built aircraft. This is not even include the indirect liability insurance that the providers of seat belts, engines etc. also have to come up with.

  54. Gil Sprague Says:

    I can’t understand how the CFI in the right seat allowed this to happen. He must have been suicidal. He was also a low time pilot but had all the ratings. He could have at least missed the building and flew over to the Hudson if he was too dumb to climb.. They were too low when they started the turn. How do these guys pass the flight test? They could have drifted over to the left side of the river and turned to the right into the wind and stayed inside the corridor if that was so important. I have never flown a cirrus but they do have a lot of accidents. I think it’s too much airplane for a low time pilot.

  55. Steven Goldman Says:

    What is needed is the same little black box that the NTSB requires in all our cars. Pilot actons and airplane performance are easy to prove if the last 20 minutes or so of the flight are recorded and burned into a downloadable chip. Dollars to donuts, the instructor was flying the plane in a steep bank and loosing altitude and the same time. There was nothing functionally wrong with the plane. The suit falls apart completely if we have the records.

  56. John Dassoulas Says:

    This whole episode appears analogous to trying to do a 180 in a blind canyon. It’s a shame that the CFI didn’t recognize this. Perhaps the lawyers should try this sometime.

  57. Ed Ludwig Says:

    When I became a pilot in the early seventies I was very interested in reading about aviation accidents. I wanted to know what happened and why so that I would’nt make the same mistake. and as an Instructor I would teach my students about the mistakes of others. As I read about these mishaps I also learned about the attorneys fighting for the victims families. even though the pilot made a mistake there’s million to be made from the airframe manufacturer to the avionics and even the tire manufacturer.we’ll sue them all! there should an oath that attorneys should follow. thou shalt not cause harm.

  58. Kerry Says:

    The insurance lobby is 100x more powerful than the plaintiff’s bar which is why most folks regurgitate the propaganda they sow as fact. As long as we’re going to blame the victim, how ’bout we put the blame with the real responsible parties: your wives and kids.

    Remember, all these “bloodsucking” aviation lawyers whom y’all seem to hate so much for screwing up your fun wouldn’t have jobs if your spouses and children stopped suing when you get yourselves killed under questionable circumstances while flying.

  59. Roger Bohl Says:

    How about some specific help:
    Unpaid expert testimony
    Friend of the court briefs
    Letters to attorney and plaintiffs

  60. lee gramas Says:

    i could not agree with you more! this type of frivolous lawsuit only increases the cost of general aviation and give our industry another black eye to the people that aren’t educated to the benefits of our passion for flying. god forbid someone should take responsibility for their own stupity and reckless behavior!

  61. Cary Alburn Says:

    As an attorney for more than 4 decades in a general practice (more family law than anything), I occasionally take personal injury cases on contingency–and often it is with clients who can’t pay the expenses easily. As a one man firm, I can’t afford to front much in expenses. I can’t afford to take on “frivolous” cases–and that violates the rules of ethics, anyway.

    It is less greedy lawyers than the “I’m entitled to it” and “someone else is responsible” mentality of today’s generation that leads to frivolous claims. If this case is frivolous, then let the court deal with it. I don’t know whether it’s frivolous or not, and neither does anyone else on this forum.

    I’m proud of my profession, but like all professions, there are those who are in it who denegrate it by their substandard ways. I can name a few in my own town–but for the most part, the vast majority of attorneys are hard-working, ethical, and honest. So “killing all the lawyers” won’t accomplish anything positive.

    Now politicians are in a different category. John Garabedian said above:
    We finally have a US president who actually prioritizes ethics and doing what is right for the average person, not the special interests.

    Oh come now, John! Who has named at least seven (so far) nominees who have cheated on their taxes? Who has named lobbyists as nominees, when he promised not to? Who has denied being part of the Chicago political machine, but whose pictures with Bloggo have been published in major news outlets?

    What we have is a US President who speaks extraordinarily well, with a tele-prompter within his vision. Let’s leave it at that.


  62. George Rogers Says:

    Right on target with this article. Such a lawsuit serves only to make lawyers
    rich. Cases are clouded by conjecture and opinions often presented by
    so-called experts with little or no factual information. Often times the cause
    is just poor planning on the part of the pilot or completly accidental, but when money is an issue the facts are replaced with just speculation. gr

  63. George Rogers Says:

    Right on target with this article. Such a lawsuit serves only to make
    lawyers rich. Cases are clouded by conjecture and opinions often
    presented by so-called experts with little or no factual information.
    Often times the cause is just poor planning on the part of the pilot
    or completly accidental, but when money is an issue the facts are
    replaced with pure speculation. gr

  64. Will Alibrandi Says:

    IIRC, the ceiling was rather low that day (1800?) – high enough for legal VFR but not recommended for anything other than pattern work. I’m a CFI in southern CT and I question the judgement involved in flying NY’s congested airspace as a low time pilot in an unfamiliar airplane with a low time west coast instructor new to the area. Combine that with a reduced ceiling and obstacles and having to stay clear of the Bravo and it doesn’t end well at all. How many warnings do you need before you realize “This isn’t the day to explore the East River”.

  65. Chris Piety Says:

    I am a “recovering” defense lawyer now working in house for a company and have the same problem with lawsuits. Many blame the lawyers – maybe it is true. But ultimately, it is the jury (non-lawyers) that awards money to people for these ridiculous cases that amount to you should have saved me from myself. That may not be the case here – rather the closing argument will be something along the lines that manufacturers must supply the public with an aircraft (car, other vehicle, home, shopping mall, world, etc.) that is risk free and the individual is not responsible for his or her own choices or conduct. As soon as the judges start dismissing these cases, and the juries stop rewarding people for not being responsible for their own conduct, the lawyers will stop coming to the table for handouts.

  66. Brian Kramer Says:

    I have nothing against attorneys, some of my best friends and clients practice law. However, as someone who is an expert witness (though usually in construction defect litigation), I can assure you that truth and justice rarely prevail from a cost standpoint and everyone in the business knows it. I own and fly a Cirrus and am dismayed to know that they will be out of pocket money now and even more later when the carrier likely settles or chooses to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to take it through trial. You don’t have to prove anything, just convince the defendants that they MIGHT lose in trial to reap rewards. We will all pay for this later. The only benefit is that it makes manufacturers even more paranoid which MAY lead to slightly greater conservatism and possibly heightened safety, which my family appreciates. Who cares anyway, we’ll all be European Socialists within the next year and Pelosi will become the next Aviation Czar or something like that.

  67. Bob Brodwater Says:

    The problem with the Cory Lidle law suit, as well as most of the mess we are in as far as the financials go I feel is due to bad laws or no laws! How do you spell Tort Reform? Bankruptcy abuse by both individuals and corporations? All of these are controlled by laws that are either written by Congress or controlled by Congress? Guess what, most members of Congress are Lawyers!! Does anybody see the problem with this? Why would lawyers in Congress want any change to the status quo since they or their families benefit the most from the current system? Having lawyers write laws is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house and designing the security system!!! If you have a vested interest in the outcome of any system you should not be responsible for the design of that system. Most people loose objectivity when it feeds and houses you. You can call me a cynic but it is also a matter of survival. How about professional jurys for trials such as medical malpractice or flying issues? Bet Congress will never agree to such comon sense solutions!

  68. John the Econ Says:

    Another example of why we desperately need “loser pays” in litigation. That would put an end to this kind of nonsense tomorrow, and we’d all be wealthier for it.

  69. Gary Sinensky Says:

    Agree with Will Abrandi – Ceiling was low that day and all VFR flights were cancelled from Lincoln Park Airport (about 15 minutes away form Manhatten). I tried turning on the Hudson (4X the width of the East River) in a 172 with a 30 degree bank and barely stayed legal. Making this turn in a Cirrus on the East River is an attempt to do the impossible.

  70. Daniel L. Paternoster, DVM Says:

    Right on. I wish there was a way without impeding legitimate right to justice, to hold attorneys who encourage cases like this accountable for the cost of the defense.

  71. Gina L. Bennett, Esq. Says:

    Your well scripted article, with which I concur entirely, points out exactly why I prefer not to pursue a career as a trial attorney, but rather as an Investigator!
    Just this evening, I had been discussing the egotistical, selfish act of a pilot, with so few flight hours, to fly in restricted airspace, and then crash and burn, again jeopardizing (fellow) New Yoirkers who witnessed what they first believed (understandably) to be yet another terroristic atack!
    But for his super-sized equipment, with its’ incredible extra “bells and whistles” the NY Yankee had absolutely NO business (pun intrended) flying up the river in ht first place!
    Furthermore, it is my understanding that his major league contract would be voidablle in the event of participation in such dangerous hobbies, etc..
    This case should be dismissed at the first level! In any event, it will be one to watch.
    Thank you for this opportunity to reply to your article.
    G. L. Bennett, Esq.
    Student Pilot (with 35 years in the Commercial Airline industry)
    Published writer and photographer

  72. Bill Carrothers Says:

    This is another of example of why our nation needs Tort Reform! This is a BS lawsuit. This guy and his “instructor” screwed up and suffered the consequences of a bad decision. The sad part is that some jury with absolutely no knowledge of aviation but wanting to “do the right thing” could possibly agree with some silly lawyer’s argument. Is a S100 gazillion going to bring Cory Lidle back?

  73. Bob H. Says:

    I think NTSB incident NYC07IA092 regarding SR-20 flight control lock-ups might have some relevance.

    “The manufacturer issued a mandatory service bulletin which changed the rigging procedures and RAI hardware. During the course of the investigation, the service bulletin was revised three times as safety information was garnered from airplane examinations and bungee testing. The Federal Aviation Administration also issued an airworthiness directive making the changes mandatory.”

    This and the accompanying AD are seemingly contradictory to the hypothesis that the control design was proven during the certification of the airplane. The PC approval date on the report of 1/14/2009 is probably not a coincidence.

  74. Alan Maurer Says:

    Hopefully this case will be immediately dismissed and it would be wonderful
    if Cirrus can get the judge to order the family to pay all their legal expenses.
    Even better if Cirrus could go after the family and lawyer for filing
    the lawsuit.

  75. Doctor Dave Says:

    Mr Reyer,
    Do you think that the Medical Malpractice system is a model to be envied? I’d argue that many, many Medical Malpractice suits are more a result of a bad outcome than Physician negligence. You can find almost anyone with an MD to make a statement of merit- for the right price of course.
    Why do you think that health care cost has ballooned to about 15% of GDP?
    I’ll tell you, because doctors are all SCARED TO DEATH about lawsuits. We practice defensively, which astroniomically increases costs. For example, I dont THINK this patient has appendicitis, based on my years of experience, their story, physical exam, and preliminary basic tests. But if I’m wrong, and they have a complication, I get dragged through the mud. So why risk a $2 million lawsuit, and all it’s hasles, when I can order a CT scan, spend $1,000 of “someone elses” money, and know for sure. This applies to many other areas of medicine as well.
    Having practiced in many different environments in the past few years, I see most physicians practicing this way. Extra testing, extra procedures, extra hospital admissions. just to CYA. It all adds up.
    The President is talking about nationalizing health care, because it is not just another service that only those who can afford it are entitled to. It is more of a basic human right. But the country, even one as rich as ours, can not afford to pay for care as it is rendered currently in this system.

    Don’t get me wrong. Victims of negligence should be compensated. But it is easier to get a jury, one made up of people who could not get out of jury duty, to feel sympathy for a sick patient than to objectively look at the facts.

    Award caps help, but to a degree. They do not change the lottery mentality.
    In order for any sort of nationalized healthcare to take hold, there is going to have to be modification in how suits are handled. Maybe health care courts, where people who actually have medical knowledge and expertise, could decide if Standard of Care was met. The malpractice CULTURE is going to have to change to bring healthcare spending into an arena where the entire system is affordable.

    Anyhow, my point is that the run-amok legal system does not only harm aviation, but almost all industry and business, and is helping bankrupt our country.

    OK. Off my soap box now.

  76. Tom Shappell Says:

    Just what our country needs; another ‘Arthur Allen Wolk’ that smells dollars! A rookie pilot, a lax instructor, and a ‘canyon’ scenario; recipe for disaster that obviously boiled over! I’ve flown for 43 years, taildraggers & trikes, in and out of ‘bush’ and mountain conditions, grass strips and tight approaches. It takes skill and experience, and common sense! They had no business playing the ‘tall & narrow’ canyon scenario, unless that instructor had the experience and was
    ON THE CONTROLS! May they loose the case, Big-Time!

  77. aulden von baden Says:

    it might help if everyone who gets aboard any aircraft does so with the knowledge that he/she might be killed in an accident by signing a waiver. thereafter if such occurs then there would be no way for a lawsuit. another thought specifically on the case: the aviation community/faa should have higher standards for instructors ratings, maybe 1000 hours time, and also require that their time is in two or more different locals so that the instructors have better ‘common sense’.

  78. Dan Harrah Says:


    Well put, and to the point. Although justice is important, it is overwhelmingly true that most of the time the court system serves only to reward lawyers greed. They delude themselves into thinking they are champions of truth, when in fact the truth does not concern them. I was called to testify as an expert witness once, and it was clear to me that the lawyers had a very superficial understanding of the complexities of the situation, and furthermore had no interest in learning the truth. Very sad to watch. The aviation community is rife with stories about companies sued over nothing. This is destroying our way of life. The cost to society is enormous. We could pay for health care for all if we stopped unworthy lawsuits. Keep up the pressure, Bruce.

  79. Dave Says:

    “…The premise is that a flight control system malfunction caused the SR20 to slam into the side of a building…”

    I would tend to agree with this statement. However, the only malfunction on that particular aircraft was a “poor connection” between the flight controls and the pilot’s seat.

    As far as mandatory service bulletins and directives for changes go, it is still the aircraft owners responsibility to see that these changes are made and the pilot’s responsibility to pre-flight the aircraft for safety. Since there is no mention of any anomalies before the crash, I rest on my “poor connection” theory.

  80. Larry Burson Says:

    I am in favor of tort reform. Mine starts right here with me. As with a number of other ideas, like crossing streets at intersections, executing the miss prior to minimums, it all starts with me. And, I hope I get better at The Golden Rule.

  81. Don Singer Says:

    Bravo, Bruce. I, too, couldn’t agree with you more. Concerning “experts… willing to rationalize almost anything…” this has been a subject of discussion in the forensic medicine arena. One suggested solution would be for expert witnesses not to work for either side, but to be responsible to and paid by the Court (from funds assessed equally from both sides). They would have to members of a pool of experts approved and accepted by the Court or judicial district. The would be responsible for evaluating the evidence objectively and scientifically, and advising the Court and jury, and would have no financial incentive to support either side’s case.

    Some of my forensic medicine acquaintances often speak of a (fictitious) “professional” organization of expert witnesses called “Witness Having Other Reasonable Explanation,” usually referred to simply by its acronym.

  82. Ross Oliver Says:

    Good commentary by Bruce Landsberg and many good comments from the pilot population.

    I have told my family that if I ever do anything bone headed in a plane and kill myself to please not sue anyone. Might I suggest that all of us should do the same? After all, we will be gone, but it is our heirs that will be filing the frivilous lawsuit, hoping to hit the jackpot.

  83. mark vultaggio Says:

    Tort reform is the answer. Full page ads, front and back covers of all phone books, constant daytime ads on tv, these are the tools of the minority bloodsucking attorneys. There is a defect in the legal system and it is called a contingency fee. If the lawyers that practice liability law are so concerned with justice and that justice may not be served in some cases since the “victims” may not have the funds to fight the big bad boys, then why do they not each take a few cases pro bono. Abuse of the legal system is costing this country a huge amount of money. The problem is most of Washington is now made up of lawyers and we know what an honest bunch they are. What are the chances they would ever challenge their brethren and effect true tort reform?

  84. James Williams Says:

    Its all about the money. Sueing for lost earnings? Thats what an ex-wife in a nasty divorce does, because its about making other ppl suffer and about a paycheck so they dont have to work hard for their future. Its greed, its arrogance, and its evil. The airplane functioned flawlessly right until they experienced a CFIT accident. One that could have been prevented had there been a greater understanding of the physics involved.

    The family just wants to blame everybody but the man, for their loss. You know what they say, misery loves company, and they are looking for a crowd and a hand out.

  85. Dave Windecker Says:

    I flew that area for years with my father. He was one of the Mahattan Bush Pilots going in and out of the East River with every type seaplane from a TriPacer to a Twin Otter. I have a Comanche 180 and would never try to make that turn. That was pure pilot error.

  86. Robert King Says:

    Perhaps the building owner and residents should file a class action lawsuit against the Lidle family for their losses in having a plane flown into their building and ruining their lives? Perhaps $100 million?…

  87. John Rich Says:

    Lawyers work on commission. The bigger the award, the bigger the commission. This is similar to the Carnahan case. The Carnahan crash was due to pilot error as well. I had not heard that the the Carnahan widow returned the money awarded as a result of the action against Parker-Hannafin. A jury was convinced despite evidence to the contrary, that the company was at fault in the crash.

  88. Stephen Teate Says:

    We need to change tactics on these kinds of issues. We need to start suing the law firms that bring these kinds of frivolous law suits.

    Stephen Teate

  89. Richard G. Wilsher Says:

    A simple wing-over would have averted this accident, but that requires confidence, competence and training, which clearly both occupants lacked in sufficiency. Pure pilot error it was. The sad thing is that (perhaps naively) one might hold lawyers in respect as being persons of moral and ethical character, yet the stupidity and magnitude of this claim shows their actual moral and ethical corruption and greed – ditto the Lidle family. The sad likelihood is (remember the McDonalds hot coffee) a jury is likely to accept the arguments in favour of the Lidles, which shows the stupidity of the public at large if they swallow this nonsense.

  90. Greg Lownsbury Says:

    Having flown the corrider many times when I resided in Connecticut, I was never foolish enough, (lacking the familiarity) to fly the east river. Emphasis on “lacking the familiarity”. The blame lies with the decisions made by the pilot. Respodent Josh Hopkins states several times that (as an attorney) the term “prove” this or that. Since he is an attorney, I am not surprised by this position, as his income depends on that premise. However, in cases like this, proof is not what is required. Simply convincing jurors (who are chosen because they sympathize with the plaintiff) to vote in favor of the plaintiff is. Proof and justice be damned.

  91. Steve Roseman Says:

    It is a shame that this attorney was not on board the aircraft. At least we wouldn’t have another frivolous lawsuit to deal with.

  92. Mike B Says:

    What nobody’s pointing out is the law. Although the 7th Amendment would seem to give an unlimited “right to sue”, there are federal and state rules for attorney practice. Federal procedural rule 11 prohibits attorneys from knowingly representing plaintiffs with phony, frivolous cases and requires attorneys to ascertain the accuracy of their clients claims and evidence. It also provides for defendants to be awarded legal fees, but it’s rarely used.

    Do attorney’s pay expert witnesses to lie? Absolutely! I’ve spoken to professionals who provide expert witness services and all say they are routinely propositioned by attorneys into providing fraudulent testimony. And what nobody points out is that this is a criminal felony (fraud and perjury).

    And no one has yet to point out that last year numerous powerful attorneys went to JAIL for criminal misconduct. The “investor fraud” firm of Millberg Wiess had several attorney’s jailed for illegally hiring plaintiffs to sue. Included was William Learach, who in interviews openly admitted that it’s a common attorney practice. And tobacco settlement mastermind Dickie Scruggs was jailed in Mississippi for attempted bribery of a state judge.

    Attorneys are scumbags and criminals. They are certainly the most evil professionals in America. The biggest problem is that there is absolutely no direct supervision and regulation of the legal industry. Most of these attorney’s are flagrantly violating state and federal law and no one in government is stopping them.

  93. Bart Bartelsman Says:

    We become better educated and safer pilots by reading accident post-mortems. This process is hastened if we reconstruct our own “oops, my bad” after each and every flight. Unfortunately these two pilots are not able to take advantage of this analysis. We can only try to reconstruct the accident and the events leading up to it. Would Cory Lyttle and his instructor have filed a lawsuit if they had a survivable outcome? We will never know.

  94. Paul Says:

    We really have become a society that feels compelled to blame others for our own bad decisions – just look all around us. This is just one more example.

    The real question is “when are we, as a society, going to say enough is enough?”

    If anybody has a claim it’s the tenants of the high rise that Lidle flew into. Their suit is against Lidle, his estate and his “flight instructor.” There is no way you can pin this on Cirrus.

    Lidle and his instructor screwed up. Deal with it.

  95. Jonathan Fuller Says:

    This problem of frivolous lawsuits would go away if we adopted a “loser pays” rule in the United States. Anyone can ruin an opponent merely by filing a lawsuit because of the expense and distraction involved in defending oneself, and although the expense of filing a lawsuit would seem to be a disincentive, it seems as if the potential payout is such that meritless lawsuits are filed all the time.
    We must ask ourselves why other industrial products get steadily cheaper in constant dollars over time, yet aviation becomes steadily more expensive. The reason is product liability lawsuits and their evil twin, unreasonable regulation. It’s no wonder that statists and trial lawyers are such natural allies in their quest to rape the productive.

  96. Randall AOPA Member Says:

    You have to remember that the ” highly paid experts in many of these cases who are willing to rationalize almost anything for a buck” ARE the same lawyers who write the laws which permit -indeed, encourage- them to sue for magnificent fees… Old Southwest Wisdom: ONE lawyer in a town will starve – TWO lawyers in a town will BOTH become rich…

    I am an engineer, not a lawyer.

  97. Mike B Says:

    Sorry, also forgot to mention the political influence. In addition to most politicians being lawyers, trial attorneys are also the biggest political contributors, contrary to what some idiot earlier said. Just like your V speeds, the numbers don’t lie! In the 2004 election trial lawyers gave a whopping $187M to campaigns compared to only $164M from the oil, insurance, and healthcare industries combined. And 98% of their contributions went to liberal democrats.

    The problem with trial lawyers also relates strongly to their liberal socio-political beliefs. Lawyers are above and beyond the most liberal group of people. The liberal mindset is based on “victimization”. Just as our engines need a constant supply of avgas the keep turning the prop, liberals need a constant supply of “victims” to survive. Liberals preach that everyone is a “victim” and that everything bad that happens to you is “someone else’s fault”, and that “someone else” always has money. This is true both on the floor of the US congress and in he courtroom.

  98. Rick Bates Says:

    Why are we so supprised? I’ts was just a matter of time before another “sue for anything attorney” dug his claws into this one. Cirrus fight this one and lets hope we get some responsible people on the jury.

  99. Kerry Says:

    Here’s another idea – why not tackle “tort reform” yourselves? You can get all the advantages of limited liability for manufacturers [and all of the R&D this inspires] by buying an experimental. The kit builder isn’t the legal manufacturer, so they’re difficult to sue [keeping their costs down] and the builder [assuming you buy a completed kit] probably won’t have enough in the way of assets to make it worth anybody’s time to sue. Not to mention you can get twice the performance for half the price of a factory built machine. Sounds like a “win/win” situation right? – or do some of you like the peace of mind that buying a product produced by an entity that can be sued gives you?

    If manufacturer’s have less exposure to liability for their bad acts they have less incentive to build safe products, period.

  100. Bob Lesage Says:

    This is why we need loser pays.
    Plus a 50% tax on the lawyer that brought the suit.

    Seeking 45 million? If they loose the lawyer gets taxed 22.5 million.

    This will stop the sillyness. Only good cases will go to court.

  101. Larry Says:

    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.

  102. John Tichy Says:

    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.

  103. Bill Lawrence Says:

    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.

  104. Phillip Peterson Says:

    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

  105. Kerry Says:

    Thanks Bill L. for a clear and cogent response.

  106. Bruce Liddel Says:

    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.

  107. Bob Lesage Says:

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

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

  108. Bill Lawrence Says:

    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.

  109. Bill Lawrence Says:

    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.

  110. Chris Torbay Says:


    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.


  111. Ken Lane Says:

    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.

  112. Gregg Monaco Says:

    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.

  113. Steven Scher Says:

    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

  114. Stu Says:

    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!

  115. JIM LOMBARDO Says:



  116. Brian Peck Says:

    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

  117. Gerald Lembas Says:

    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.

  118. Gerald Lembas Says:

    See Previous reply.

  119. Bill Harrison Says:

    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).

  120. Brian Derby Says:

    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.

  121. Eric Says:

    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.

  122. Ron Stearney Says:

    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.

  123. John Oakes Says:

    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.

  124. Mario Catgenova Says:

    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.

  125. Ed Livermore Says:

    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.

  126. Lance De Foa Says:

    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?

  127. Gerald Wade Says:

    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.

  128. Jonathan Doolittle Says:

    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.

  129. Don Phillips Says:

    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.”

  130. Michael Farrell, CRNA, MS Says:

    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

  131. Michael Farrell, CRNA, MS Says:

    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.

  132. Bill Lawrence Says:

    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.

  133. Don Phillips Says:

    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.

  134. tom Laitala Says:

    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.


    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

  136. Steve Reeves Says:

    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.

  137. Ron Stearney Says:

    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.

  138. Marshall Sanders Says:

    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.

  139. baron boxer Says:

    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.

  140. Bob H. Says:

    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)…


    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.

  141. Stephen Wilson Says:

    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.

  142. Gardner Recall Says:

    The citizens of Gardner, KS are currently working to recall two members of their City Council. The recall is tied up in the courts at the moment, but it should go to a vote in March of 2010.

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