Remember, “Judges are like umpires”

Last October, New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle’s plane crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan, killing Lidle and the flight instructor who was on board. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, but has not yet determined the cause of the crash or issued its final report (nor has it even been able to say definitively who was flying the plane). But New York dentist Larry Rosenthal knows who is at fault: he’s suing the estate of Lidle for $7 million, claiming that to be the value of his apartment and belongings destroyed when the plane hit his building. He has nowhere to live and is a “refugee,” although Rosenthal’s attorney allows that “It’s not as bad as someone in Katrina.”

There are probably no precedent-setting issues in the case, but we do get this amusing bit of legal analysis from his lawyer (New York Post):

“There’s no excuse for smacking a plane into an apartment building in the middle of Manhattan,” said the Rosenthals’ lawyer, David Jaroslawicz.

That’s not necessarily the case, though; last week, Lidle’s widow figured out an excuse: she filed a lawsuit of her own against the plane manufacturer and associated companies, claiming that some unknown design flaw in the plane caused the crash.

The plaintiff is no stranger to litigation; he is currently suing a former patient who he claims has defamed him on the internet. That defamation suit is based on claims on one of the two gripe sites set up by former patients: Baddentist.com and Lyingdentist.com, which contain many curious and colorful allegations. Smile!


Update: a reader pointed me to this 2002 New York Law Journal story reporting that the dentist’s lawyer has had some legal troubles of his own:

A small New York law firm faces nearly $200,000 in sanctions after a federal appeals court said it had not received a severe enough penalty for an abusive securities fraud suit.

[…]

Jaroslawicz also argued that the sanctions should be reduced because he had recently contracted an unspecified disabling disease and because he operated a small law firm.

The 2nd Circuit sided with NU-Tech, saying that the suit constituted a “substantial failure” to comply with requirements of Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

The court rejected Jaroslawicz’s health-related arguments, saying they could not be considered because Jaroslawicz refused to submit financial and medical evidence related to his condition.

10 Comments

  • Not much on this accident yet at the NTSB web site: http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief.asp?ev_id=20061018X01530&key=1

    Liability should be proportionate to the acceptance of risk. When I join my fellow idiots and morons on the road, I accept that the risk of getting injured (as they also accept) is part of the deal. Liability is for mistakes, but accidents are accidents.

    When I sit in my home I am not partaking of general aviation, not accepting the risks of being a private pilot in the air. Thus I expect pilots overflying my home to use extraordinary care, and that they owe strict liability to me regardless of the reason they might fall out of the sky (a risk fully accepted by them when they climb aboard).

  • I object to the anti-dentite tone of this post!

    (A Seinfeld reference, for the pop culture-impaired…)

  • Wow. Can you seriously sue for an “unknown design flaw” in something that injured someone?

  • Why didn’t Lidle’s widow sue the architect, builder, & supplier of materials for the apartment building, as well as the City of New York for allowing a 50-story building to be built there, causing the plane to crash into it? (Surprising no one has thought of that yet!)

    Or for that matter, I’m surprised the dentist hasn’t tried to sue the Lidle estate for damages; at least, not yet . . . . (Hmmm, might be grounds for legal malpractice against the lawyer!)

  • It’s difficult to imagine a better example of res ipsa loquitur than an airplane hitting a high-rise in Manhattan. It’s a rebuttable presumption, and presumably, Lidle’s estate will try to cross-claim against Cirrus for contribution or indemnity, but I’ve never seen any evidence of problems or design flaws with the plane. As for the issue of who was flying, given that there are dual controls on the Cirrus, arguably Lidle and the instructor are jointly and severally liable.

  • This doesn’t surprise me. Lidel’s widow considered him to be a top pilot, therefore he couldn’t have made a mistake. It has to be the aircraft’s fault not the man at the controls. An “unidentified design flaw” ranks right up there with unicorns, snipes, Bigfoot, Santa Claus and the Grassy Knoll Gunman.

  • Legally, I’m fairly certain they are jointly and severally liable. However, reasonably, the flight instructor should have been the one supervising all aspects of the flight, *especially* low-altitude maneuvering in a densely-populated area.

    That’s a high-risk maneuver that would demand *any* pilot’s full attention if they decided that for some reason that was what they had to do. Any rational flight instructor would be on high alert during such an operation regardless of how proficient he believes his student is. (Especially when you know the student will be tempted to be looking at the buildings and other pretty things.)

    I’ve heard that the accident was caused by a box-canyon effect combined with unusual winds. Basically, they were trying to turn around in a confined space surrounded by tall buildings. During the turn, the wind was pushing them towards the buildings, causing the turn to require more space than expected (or available).

    Flying in any kind of confined space is a *huge* risk and there’s no way I can imagine the flight instructor wouldn’t have been completely engaged in supervising.

  • “Flying in any kind of confined space is a *huge* risk and there’s no way I can imagine the flight instructor wouldn’t have been completely engaged in supervising.”

    Last time I checked the FARs had severe restrictions on flights over or near urban areas, so I have to wonder if this flight was even legal? If it was legal than I have to question the sanity of the FAA for allowing it to be legal. In my opinion the Dentist has a valid claim, it is Mrs. Lidel’s lawsuit that I’m questioning.

  • The apartment owner’s lawsuit seems well taken to me. A non-issue for a forum like this. The widow’s … not so much.

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