|Cirrus SR-20 Aircraft|
A Minnesota airplane manufacturer isn't responsible for the deaths of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, who were killed when their small plane crashed into a Manhattan apartment building, a jury concluded Tuesday.
The Manhattan jury returned its verdict after three hours of deliberation, ending a one-month trial that featured testimony by Lidle's widow and from a retired space shuttle astronaut who was called by Duluth, Minn.-based Cirrus Design Corp. to support its contention that pilot error was to blame. The National Transportation Safety Board had made the same finding, though that was not permitted to be introduced in court.
The families of Lidle and instructor Tyler Stanger insisted the plane went down in October 2006 because its flight controls jammed.
The verdict came one day after Patrick Bradley, a lawyer for the company, told jurors: "It is wrong and it is unfair to blame someone else for something they did not do."
Hunter Shkolnik, the families' attorney, had asked the jury to award more than $40 million to Lidle's family and $3.5 million to Stanger's survivors, based on the amount of money both men would have earned in the future. Lidle, who was 34, died just days after his baseball season ended. Stanger was 26.
How do you blame the plane in this case?
It's not stretching things to suggest that this was a legitimate lawsuit. Just because the jury says "the plane wasn't to blame" doesn't exactly mean that that's the case. The evidence presented did not sway them. That means that, in this court and in this particular case, the plane was not culpable, either by design or by mechanical failure. Nevertheless, the manufacturer has already endured enough grief over this case. This is one of those unfortunate things that happens when you make and sell things that people can get hurt or killed with. We know of many cases where a defective product killed someone. Proving that is hard enough; dealing with the aftermath becomes a lesson in accepting the American system.
There are some who would say that it was ridiculous to try and find out the truth. I think it would have been negligent not to examine whether the plane was a factor in what happened.
So, yes. It was legitimate to try and see if the plane was to blame. We have a long history in our country of being a litigious society. This is not a bad thing. When you hold people accountable for the things they profit from, from the things they do to make money, and from the things that happen, you introduce the idea of fairness into society. Fairness is intrinsic to the American experience. When people complain about America, remind them that they have a better chance of getting a fair shake here than anywhere else, practically or otherwise.
We have to find out about the things that can harm us. We have to be informed, as a people, and then we have to accept what that tells us. Once we know the facts, accepting the verdict of the court is also intrinsic to being an American. I suppose that it would be fair to say that the "little guy" doesn't win often enough; but when the little guy wins, we all win. What you want to have happen in a case like this is for everyone to accept the outcome and move on. I hope that can happen here.