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The Cory Lidle wrongful death trial begins today

Apr 27, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT

Cory Lidle

Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle died when the plane he was piloting crashed into a Manhattan building on October 11, 2006. Today opening statements in the wrongful death case brought by his widow will take place.

The FAA concluded that the crash was pilot errors and that Lidle who was flying with his instructor, misjudged a turn.  The lawsuit contends, however, that the plane had a defective control system. The defendant is the plane’s manufacturer, Cirrus Design Corp..

Of baseball note: Jason Giambi is on the witness list. He and two other players — Aaron Rowand and Mike Lieberthal — have been put up to testify about Lidle’s “style and abilities as a major-league pitcher.”  This is presumably for the damages phase of the case, assuming it gets there.

I can’t really see how their testimony would be useful, however. If the idea is to establish what kind of money Lidle could have made in his career had he not died, there are no shortage of agents, scouts, executives and economists who could talk about that more comprehensively and succinctly than Giambi, Lieberthal and Rowand could.  My guess is that the plaintiffs would like to have some personable baseball stars with some relationship with Lidle to talk about him in more human terms. If Giambi’s testimony is allowed, he will have only one less high profile trial under his belt this month than he has hits this season.

I have no idea if there is merit to Ms. Lidle’s case. Whenever a wrongful death case comes up, however, I feel compelled to link this, which is my emotional response to all wrongful death suits, whether righteous or not.  It’s a view at which I arrived after a decade’s worth of defending wrongful death suits. I don’t claim that it’s unbiased (like I said, it’s emotional). Short version: people shouldn’t hesitate to bring such suits if there is merit to them. But under no circumstances should they expect them to bring closure or peace, if such things even exist after heart-wrenching tragedy.

  1. Utley's Hair - Apr 27, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    So…Lidle was flying the plane…and operator error caused the crash and, subsequently, his death…and she’s suing for wrongful death? Maybe she should sue Pugsley, et al, since it was the Yankers’ fault that they weren’t in the playoffs and still playing. This kind of suit is an example of what’s wrong with the legal system.

    • marshmallowsnake - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:15 PM

      I would add our society as well…no one likes to accept responsibility. If they can shift blame and make some cash doing so…then they will.

    • larryhockett - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      With all due respect, what’s wrong with our legal system is people instantly assuming that everyone who brings a claim is a fake, a fraud or otherwise looking for something they don’t deserve. There are certainly frivolous claims as you would expect amongst a nation of 300 million people. But the degree to which the public has been convinced that ALL claims are frivolous is a testament to the incredible wealth and propaganda of the insurance industry.

      Neither you nor I know anything more than the barest facts of this case. Yet you (and the entirety of the internets, apparently) have no problem issuing not only a verdict in this complex products liability dispute but, further, you arrive at the conclusion that the legal system under which we’ve lived peaceably for 200+ years is somehow flawed for even allowing such disputes to be heard in a court of law.

      It’s your constitutional right to spout an opinion about which you know nothing but God help you when you’re the one who’s hurt and no one will believe you.

      • Jonny 5 - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:51 PM

        “you arrive at the conclusion that the legal system under which we’ve lived peaceably for 200+ years”

        Peaceably for the last 200+ years huh? The most wars of any country ever,and one of the youngest. With a civil war thrown in there to boot. Let’s not sugarcoat here.

        And our judicial system is very flawed. Maybe less so than other countries, but it is still flawed. Dirty judges, planted evidence,Killers walk, innocents found guilty etc.. etc.. I could go on but won’t.

        I’m not giving an opinion on this case here, maybe the controls were faulty. But you seem to have swallowed the hook line and sinker here. You are strongly implying everything is perfect with the system when it’s far from it. Most people feel the system is faulty because it is.

      • Old Gator - Apr 27, 2011 at 4:01 PM

        I’d be fine with much of that if the plaintiffs who lost their cases had to pay all of the expenses of the defendants if the plaintiffs lost. Extorting exoribitant settlements from defendants with the threat of ridiculous legal expenses is a time-honored aspect of the system under which rich lawyers have lived peacefully for 200+ years, too.

        But as a licensed multi-instrument private pilot with about 3000 flight hours under my belt who has seen the private aviation industry in this country virtually destroyed by the expenses of ridiculous lawsuits brought by incompetent pilots and their families, the scenario of an aircraft as relatively simple as a Cirrus going out of control due to a berserk Hall-9000 control system strikes me as too preposterous to take very seriously. This one has all the classic hallmarks of overreaching student pilot stupidity and an instructor who was asleep at the switch – a very, very common scenario that keen aviation lawyers like Arthur Allen Wolk and his ilk have parlayed into millions upon millions of undeserved settlements and jury awards.

      • Jonny 5 - Apr 27, 2011 at 4:25 PM

        I’m no aviation expert but wouldn’t hurtling through the air at a hundred miles per hour or more in what’s basically a tin can with wings, or in some cases a fabric laundry bag ( I’ve flown in a cub before, Safe I wasn’t) be putting your life at risk anyway?

      • Old Gator - Apr 27, 2011 at 9:16 PM

        If you fly carelessly or to show off, without having done your homework on the airspace in which you plan to fly and/or the meteorological conditions along your route, yes, it’s very unsafe.

        The Cirrus is a state-of-the-art, largely composite aircraft that’s very well built, strong, stable and maneuverable – hardly a tin can, though believe me, I’ve flown those – and has excellent visibility through its large windows. It’s also pretty slick – very clean aerodynamically, with very small drag coefficient for its planform. Properly flown, it’s no less safe than a car. The type has logged hundreds of thousands of hours of flight time since its commercial introduction over a decade ago. There’s nothing fundamentally “wrong” with its design. I’ve never owned one but I have a few hours in them as a renter and for “brushing up” on some skills grown rusticated with age. I can tell you that any pilot who was trying to perform a 180-degree turn inside the Hudson corridor, below the level of the surrounding buildings, was doing something very foolish unless there was some kind of genuine emergency at hand – like, collision avoidance – and any instructor who would permit him to do so should have had his license yanked.

        By the way, the same is generally true of a Cub. It’s got its performance envelope and operated within that, it’s a very safe airplane too. Aside from the doped fabric it’s covered with, it has a very strong aluminum frame. And you can operate it at very low speeds, too. Tales abound of Cubs with headwinds being passed by traffic on the ground. I can run faster than its stall speed. And I’ve been mistaken for a musk ox at a distance.

  2. Jonny 5 - Apr 27, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Maybe you give people too much credit? I think wrongful death lawsuits are all about getting revenge in a lawful way. The Roman system of eye for an eye toned down. I just doubt that anyone with any logic is searching for closure through the law in these cases.

  3. BC - Apr 27, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    Wrongful death???!? Lidle was driving the thing and crashed into a building. Makes no sense to me.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 27, 2011 at 12:37 PM

      What if he was trying desperately to turn away from the building but the controls didn’t respond due to faulty design, wiring and installation?

      Not saying that happened — I have no idea — but you can’t simply look at the crash and say “his fault.”

      • Old Gator - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:09 PM

        It’d make more sense to sue the people who put the building there. We know that they could have chosen to put it anywhere on the planet but they deliberately planted it right in front of Corey Lidle’s Cirrus. Now if that isn’t actionable given the nature of the “logic” that rules our cockamamie excuse for a legal system, what is?

      • marshmallowsnake - Apr 27, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        Did they ever find the flight data box? I cannot remember if they did or did not.

      • Old Gator - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        I don’t think there’s a flight data box in a two or four seat Cirrus. That’s a very, very expensive piece of equipment. Commercial aircraft have to have one but I’ve never heard of any but the most costly executive aircraft having them. I’ve owned a variety of small aircraft, from a Piper Archer up to a Malibu and a seven-seat turboprop Cheyenne II, and none of ‘em had anything remotely like a flight data recorder.

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