When Cory Lidle’s widow sued Cirrus Design, it caused a bit of an uproar in the aviation community. Her suit alleges that it was a defect in the aircraft’s flight controls that caused the Cirrus SR-20 to slam into a Manhattan hi-rise. That claim led many to call the suit frivolous. After all, the NTSB determined the accident was caused by pilot error, plain and simple. Right?
Cirrus asked the federal judge who is hearing the case to toss it out as being based on "junk science." Cirrus argued that under legal precedent known as Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, the judge must act as a "gatekeeper." That means she must review the expert
testimony supporting plaintiff’s case and make a preliminary determination as to whether the experts’ opinions are reliable enough to even present to a jury. If the judge determines that the opinions are not sufficiently sound, then the case gets tossed due to lack of admissible evidence. Cirrus argued that Lidle’s experts are unqualified and their opinions as to the cause of the crash are based on speculation. In other words, that Lidle’s "defect" theory is "junk."
Yesterday, after reviewing the opinions of Lidle’s experts, the federal judge refused to grant summary judgment. She expressly found that Lidle’s experts are adequately qualified, and that their opinions are reliable.
That ruling doesn’t mean that Lidle wins her case. It means only that Lidle may present her expert evidence that the crash was caused by a defect in the Cirrus’ flight control system to a jury.
The most relevant stuff starts at page 11.
Download pdf of opinion here.
Order Denying Cirrus Design’s Motion for Summary Judgment