The Lidle jury will never learn that the NTSB concluded the crash was caused by pilot error, and not a defect in the plane, as plaintiffs allege.
The reason is that, by federal statute (49 USC 1441(e)), the NTSB’s conclusions are inadmissible in court.
No part of any report or reports of the National Transportation Safety Board relating to any accident or the investigation thereof, shall be admitted as evidence or used in any suit or action for damages growing out of any matter mentioned is such report or reports.”
As it turns out, the statute doesn’t mean exactly what it says. Some parts of an NTSB report are sometimes admissible. But the courts have made clear that the NTSB’s probable cause finding must always stay out of evidence.
Many find that surprising. Federal statute aside, shouldn’t the jury be told what the NTSB concluded? Isn’t the NTSB, after all, in the best position to determine the cause of the accident?
No and No.
The Jury should Not be Told of the NTSB’s Conclusions
The NTSB allows the manufacturers who are potentially responsible for a crash, such as Cirrus, to participate in its investigation. But the NTSB excludes the victim’s family. This practice, which the NTSB calls the "party system" of investigation, results in probable cause conclusions which favor the industry players. It’s one reason why most accidents are chalked up to "pilot error."
It wouldn’t be fair to stick the families involved in the Lidle case with the NTSB’s conclusion given that the NTSB didn’t give them the opportunity to be heard.
The Jury, not the NTSB, is in the Best Position to Determine the Cause of the Accident
Unlike the NTSB, the jury will hear the testimony of experts from both sides of the case. Both the experts retained by Cirrus and those retained by the familes. That places the jury in a better position than the NTSB to determine the true cause of the crash.