NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and a flight instructor did everything they could to save their lives after the small plane they were piloting malfunctioned, causing them to crash into a Manhattan building, a lawyer for the men’s families told a jury Wednesday at the start of a civil trial.
Attorney Todd Macaluso said he will prove that Lidle and his instructor were killed because Cirrus Design Corp., of Duluth, Minn., failed to properly design the aircraft, allowing a deficient flight control system to remain in the aircraft even though there was a better and safer alternative available at a reasonable cost.
Lidle, 34, and his instructor were killed in the Oct. 11, 2006, accident. A federal safety panel concluded that the crash occurred because of “inadequate judgment, planning and airmanship” by Lidle and his instructor, Tyler Stanger, who misjudged a turn.
His wife, Melanie, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the aircraft, alleging that a defective control system lead to the crash.
The lawsuit seeks more than $50 million in damages.
However, in its opening statement, the plane’s manufacturer argued that it was not to blame for their deaths.
Attorney Patrick Bradley told the jury in federal court Wednesday that Cirrus Design Corp. of Duluth, Minn., was so dedicated to safety that it installed a parachute that Lidle and his instructor, Tyler Stanger, could have triggered if they saw no other option.
In all, 100 of the 137 apartments in the Belaire building in Manhattan suffered water or smoke damage in the crash. There was also extensive damage to hallways on 28 floors, requiring partial or total restoration, including new carpeting and wallpaper.
Macaluso said he will show the jury plenty of evidence to convince jurors that the plane was hopelessly out of control.
He also said an employee of a power plant in Queens on the east side of the river will testify that the plane veered so close to the plant that he thought there was a terrorist attack under way.
He said Lidle and Stanger yanked so hard on the steering mechanism that it was bent. “They did everything that a prudent pilot would do. There is not pilot error. There is no negligence,” Macaluso said.
Attorneys for Cirrus Design Corp. were due to deliver opening statements later Wednesday. The firm has said the plane is the safest of its kind.
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