NYC Jury Clears Plane-Maker In Cory Lidle Crash Suit; Yankee Pitcher’s Widow ‘Devastated’

NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — A Minnesota airplane manufacturer isn’t responsible for the deaths of 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.

Lidle and Stanger took a sightseeing trip around the Statue of Liberty in Lidle’s Cirrus SR-20 when they flew up the East River, where there is limited space to roam because of restrictions related to three major international airports in the New York City area. The plane struck the 550-foot-tall Belaire Condo building on the Upper East Side.

In his closing argument, Bradley said the pilots did not leave enough room to make the turn and flew too low, at only half the height of the Empire State Building. He said the men managed to recover from a stall and went around a building and “then right in front of it was the condominiums.”

“There were no choices for these pilots,” he told jurors. “The aircraft crash at that time was tragically a foregone conclusion.”

Shkolnik argued that the plane was manufactured with defects that the company knew of and failed to warn its customers about.

“What happened here is there was a defect in the plane and it lost control,” he said.

After the verdict, Shkolnik asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones to set aside the jury’s findings. She set a schedule for written submissions.

Shkolnik told The Associated Press that the jury result was predictable because the judge refused to allow jurors to hear that the company revised its manufacturing process after the crash to prevent the flight controls from getting jammed. She also had ruled that they could not hear that a flight instructor had a lockup of flight controls and almost crashed in a similar plane.

Melanie Lidle cried as she left the courtroom.

“They’re devastated,” Shkolnik said of the wives.

Bill King, Cirrus’ vice president of business administration, said the company was gratified with the verdict.

“Our hearts are with the Lidle and Stanger families who are still grieving,” he said in a statement.

What do you think of the verdict? Let us know below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • DaveBT

    the pilot was an IDIOT but no one wants to admit it
    he tried to show off and failed in the worst way.
    luckily they didn’t kill anyone else, or their widows would look to sue them
    His wife is only looking to make a quick buck or two

  • Blaze

    very cold Thesultan of span… another heartless internet jerk who doesn’t even put himself in her position and then judges.

    • Rodin

      If you had been following the story, you’d realize that she got exactly what she deserved:


      PS –
      It’s SpaM, not SpaN

  • Rodin

    So the ball player’s life is worth over 10 times that of the instructor?

    Gold Digger!

    Cirrus had already been cleared of wrongdoing during the crash investigation.

  • Thesultanof Spam

    Melanie Lidle, too bad. Now go and get a job.

    • Nortel

      Couldn’t have said that better if I tried.

  • gaby

    I do not understand why the judge did not allow the information about the design and flight controls?

    • Aviator70

      I work in aviation, I fly, I am very familiar with the Cirrus, and I know many people who fly them, nobody has ever experienced or heard about this so called “defect”

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