At Cory Lidle Trial, Lawyers Differ over Crash Cause

Cirrus lawyers say SR20 pilots bear sole responsibility for 2006 crash.

Lawyers in the $100 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by the widow of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle squared off in a Manhattan courtroom this week with remarkably different versions of what caused Lidle’s Cirrus SR20 to crash into a Manhattan apartment building in 2006. A lawyer for Cirrus said Lidle and his flight instructor’s actions caused the crash that led to their deaths, while plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that design flaws in the SR20 were to blame.

Lawyers for Lidle's wife and the family of Lidle's instructor, Tyler Stanger, argued Cirrus Design Corp. bears responsibility for the crash, saying the controls in the SR20 jammed, preventing the men from avoiding slamming into the building as they attempted to turn around in the tight confines of New York’s East River Corridor.

Duluth, Minnesota-based Cirrus expressed "genuine regret" that its Cirrus SR20 was involved in the "terrible tragedy" that killed Lidle and Stanger, said attorney Patrick Bradley in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, but said Cirrus did nothing to cause the accident.

Bradley put the blame of the October 2006 crash on a series of pilot errors that began after the men tried to make their turn at too low an altitude and with the wind blowing them toward the Manhattan skyline. The SR20 rose to about 700 feet, appeared to stall and then dramatically descended to less than 400 feet before smashing into the building at height of about 330 feet.

Bradley said Stanger had only 25 hours of experience in the SR20 and that neither Lidle nor Stanger had ever flown up the East River Corridor. A lawyer for Lidle’s widow said the men bent the sidesticks in the SR20 bid to “unjam the flight controls” as they tried to prevent the accident. The NTSB has blamed the crash on pilot error.