Follow-ups to some stories I’ve posted in the last few weeks: Last month we reported on the lawsuit against Cory Lidle, alleging that he piloted his plane into someone’s apartment building in the crash which killed him last October. Now Lidle’s widow is suing MetLife, baseball’s insurer, for denying her payment under its accidental death […]

Follow-ups to some stories I’ve posted in the last few weeks:

  • Last month we reported on the lawsuit against Cory Lidle, alleging that he piloted his plane into someone’s apartment building in the crash which killed him last October. Now Lidle’s widow is suing MetLife, baseball’s insurer, for denying her payment under its accidental death benefit coverage. The policy had an exclusion for accidents in which players are piloting airplanes; Lidle’s widow is denying that Lidle was the pilot. In case you’re counting, that’s at least three lawsuits over this accident, despite the fact that the NTSB still hasn’t made any final determinations about the crash. (And I assume that we’ll see more from other residents of the apartment building.)
  • In February we discussed a ruling in the lawsuit against New York City over the Staten Island Ferry crash; at the time, the lawyers for the plaintiffs convinced a judge not to cap the damages the plaintiffs could recover from the city. The lead attorneys were so proud of their work that they felt they deserved a bonus; now they’re asking the court to cut other law firms’ fees so they can receive it. And they’re bickering over the request:

    “They didn’t do anything to help us,” said Michael H. Bush of the New Dorp firm of Chelli & Bush. “They never updated us with anything. We never got a phone call. We never got e-mails. We settled all of our cases prior to the motion being settled, and they just did nothing to help.”

    “They’re motivated by their own interests,” he continued. “They’re getting the publicity and they have their own million-dollar cases, too.”


    Chelli & Bush didn’t attend any of “15 meetings” with the firms involved, nor did they show up for any of the court dates during the trial, Bisignano contended.

    “They contributed nothing, and yet they claim there was no benefit to them,” Bisignano said. “No honorable law firm would deny our right to be compensated for the services we performed that benefited every law firm and every complainant in this case.”

    Children, play nice.

  • Findlaw columnist Julie Hilden discussing Carol Burnett’s chances in suing Family Guy.


  • Finally, we know which law firms are “honorable.”

  • Concerning “broad parody”, at what point is the parody so non-creative and unfunny that it’s simply a ripoff? (I find “Family Guy” a horribly unfunny show and that their so-called parodies very uncreative.)

  • Joe
    That is because it is written by manatees.

  • Upon checking out the Findlaw link, we learn that Ms. Hilden expresses the following view:

    “It’s important to remember that there was something ugly at the heart of Burnett’s ‘Charwoman’ character in the first place: A wealthy, famous comedian was using the persona of one of the poorest of the poor.”

    With this class warfare talk, is Ms. Hilden is rehearsing for a Democratic Party fundraiser? Or is she too young and pampered, like so many of the Generation X-Y-Z-??? kids, to realize how the working class really lives and how they view the world? Or both?

    Back in the 70s I used to bust my knuckles doing real physical work. At the time, I thought Carol Burnett was funny as hell, including her charwoman routine, which resonated with lots of us plain folks. There was nothing “ugly” about Ms. Burnett’s comedy routines, and no politically correct maunderings about “the poor,” from a Julie-come-lately who has no idea of what she speaks, will convince me otherwise.

  • Jake – I find it ironic you criticize Ms. Hilden for not knowing how the working class lives and works; do you really think Carol Burnett knows what it’s like to do manual labor and live as a “plain folk”? I sure don’t.

    Whether Carol Burnett was malicious in her comedy – or even funny – is a matter that reasonable people can dispute. But let’s not pretend that at the height of her fame Carol Burnett was “working class.”

  • Lidle’s widow is right. It is almost inconceivable that Lidle could have piloting under those circumstances.

    It may come down to the exact wording of the policy. But in general, when the regulations under which an airplane operation is conduct only require one pilot, there is only considered to be one pilot. The pilot is the one legally responsible for the conduct of the flight and legally authorized to make the final decisions, and in this case that would be the instructor.

  • I defer to Mr. Schwartz’s knowledge of the relevant regulations, but I wonder if the insurance contract might intend a more functional definition of “pilot”; i.e., who was actually controlling the aircraft? If the purpose of the policy is to prevent the player from actually flying a plane, then it seems to me that the policy might look to what was actually happening in the cockpit rather than the legal definition.

  • Was Lidel in the left or right seat? This may sound stupid, but the determination of who the pilot was may come down to this. It is my understanding that the person Lidle was flying with was a flight instructor. If at the time of the crash Lidel was “under instruction” then the instructor was the pilot and Lidel was the student. If Lidel wasn’t under instruction a case can be made that the person in the left seat is the pilot.

  • ” do you really think Carol Burnett knows what it’s like to do manual labor and live as a “plain folk”?”

    Um, yes, actually, because I bothered to learn more about her than just that she earned a lot of money. She grew up “plain”, just like almost everyone else. EARNING a large amount of money does not inherently make on forget the previous portions of one’s life.

    No one is contending “that at the height of her fame Carol Burnett was “working class.”” Just because one is no longer “working class” does not mean one never was.

    I find your found irony ironic, since you just inherently assume she has money and therefore has nver worked a day in her life.

  • Justinian, stop trolling; everyone else, stop encouraging the off-topic meandering.

    I hope Joe was trolling; I’d hate to see speech rights judged retrospectively based on the quality of the commentary. (The Larry Flynt parody of Jerry Falwell was in considerably poor taste, and Lord knows 2 Live Crew was tastelessly cacophonic.) If there’s a right to parody, there’s a right to unfunny parody, and the remedy for the latter is to let the market take its inevitable toll.

  • Did everyone read the newspaper article?

    However, the plan — which applies to all players with major league contracts — contains an exclusion for “any incident related to travel in an aircraft … while acting in any capacity other than as a passenger.

    I don’t want to pretend to be a lawyer, but if these words mean what they seem to mean and he was taking a flying lesson (the clue is that he was flying with his flight instructor) then clearly he was acting in a capacity other than a passenger. One would have to assume that the purpose of the flight was for Cory to practice flying the plane and therefore he would be acting as other than a passanger.

    “Quite frankly, there were no eyewitnesses that we’ve been able to find to determine who actually was flying that plane,” King said Monday. … An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board … did not reach any conclusions about the cause of the accident or who was at the controls when the plane crashed.

    I didn’t know that the Bart Simpson defense was allowed in court:

    1) I (He) didn’t do it
    2) Nobody saw me (him) do it
    3) You can’t prove I (he) did it

    Unless the policy stated that he had to be piloting the plane at the instance of the crash it should be irrelevant who was at the controls.

  • I’m going to have to argue this one with you Richard. If the flight was the case of a student being under instruction (arranged through an FBO or school), it is going to come down to which seat was Lidle in? While there are controls for both seats, it is generally accepted that the left seat is for the pilot. If Lidle was in the left seat then the insurance company will probably win. If he was in the right seat with no other evidence proving that Lidle was actually flying the plane the insurance company will probably lose. It can be said that Lidle was following the policy’s rules by having the instructor fly him around even though Lidle owned the plane.

  • Jim, I think you missed Richard’s point. Even if Lidle was a “student under instruction,” the policy exclusion would apply, because he was acting in the capacity of a student, rather than as a passenger. His flying instructor wasn’t flying him around to get from Point A to Point B.

    But this surely isn’t the first case of this sort interpreting this insurance language in this sort of situation. Perhaps one of our insurance-guru readers can pitch in.

  • No. I didn’t miss Richard’s point. I made a mistake in my post. I meant to say “Unless the flight was made as a student under instruction.”. What may have been happening in that aircraft and what can be proven to be happening are two different things. Unless instruction was arrainged through a third party or Lidel can be shown to have been in the left seat, there is no proof that he was anything other than a passenger.

  • I think you’re defining “proof” too narrowly. There’s certainly, at a minimum, circumstantial evidence that this was a training flight given that Tyler Stanger had previously trained Lidle and that the plane has dual controls, and perhaps also documentary evidence. It’s also wildly implausible that Lidle, who already had 75 hours of flying time, hires a CFI for his own plane solely to be ferried around in a round-trip back to the airport he started at. If I’m the judge on these facts, I don’t even see a material dispute of fact unless the Lidle family has more information that they’re not disclosing.

  • Ted,
    That Lidle only had 75 flight hours only reinforces my point. The type of aircraft that they crashed is considered to be a complex aircraft. Complex meaning that it has a varible pitch propellor and retractable landing gear. It is not the type of aircraft that a pilot with only 75 total hours would be flying. That Lidel’s flight instructor would be ferrying the plane from the point of purchase to Lidel’s choice of airport is entirely possible. It happens all of the time. This goes toward my previous statement. If Lidel was in the left seat the insurance company wins, if he was in the right they lose.

  • Jim, you seem to be arguing for the sake of arguing. There is plenty of press coverage, both before and after Lidle’s death, about Lidle’s love for this particular plane that he owned and how he intended to fly it cross-country home to California after the baseball season. I also don’t see how the “right seat” matters given that the plane is dual-control.

  • No. I’m not auguing for the sake of arguing here. The point that I’m trying to make here is that what ever Lidel may have done in the past or he intended to do in the future is irrelevant.

    The entire issue is, was Lidle flying the plane or was he along as a passenger, on this particular flight. More to the point, can it be proven that he wasn’t just a passenger.

    My concern over which seat Lidel was in is simple. Who ever is in the left seat, even in an aircraft with dual controls is considered to be the pilot. If I was a student under instruction I would be in the left seat with the instructor in the right. If I was just a passenger I would be in the right seat. Don’t ask me why this is so, it is just is a quirk of aviation. As a result it is harder to fly in the right seat due to the position of the throttle and other controls. With the small number of flight hours Lidel had, there is no way that he would be in the right seat in any other capacity than as just a passsenger.

    I have linked a picture of the Cirrus SR20’s interior. Notice that the controls are fly by wire. In the left seat you control the aircraft with your left hand. In the right seat you use your right hand.

    Without any other evidence, if Lidle was in the right seat there is no way to prove that he was anything other than a passenger.

  • “Who ever is in the left seat, even in an aircraft with dual controls is considered to be the pilot.”

    This is just not the case. There is no Federal Air Regulation that makes the left seater the Pilot in Command (PIC). I often fly from the right seat with non-pilots sitting in the left. I am still PIC. If there are two qualified pilots aboard, they must decide between themselves who will be PIC. If they didn’t tell anyone, then it will be up to the jury to speculate it out.

    Also, the Cirrus in question is not legally considered to be a complex aircraft. It lacks retractable landing gear. The controls are definitely not fly-by-wire. Sorry Jim, but I believe you’re getting a bit out of your depth on this one.

    As far as instruction goes, the instructor had very little experience with Cirrus aircraft. I’d consider it most likely that Lidle took him up to familiarize him with the aircraft before their cross-country trip.

    I’d also be willing to bet some bucks that Lidle was found in the left seat. Regardless of whether he was getting instruction (which I doubt), instructors usually sit on the right and non-instructors fly from the left.

  • Dibby, time out here! You said ” . . . Lidle, with only 75 hours of flight time was] . . . familiarizing the instructor with the aircraft before their cross-country trip.”

    The student instructing the instructor??? I’m afraid that owl doesn’t hoot: Why would an inexperienced pilot (75 hours) hire an instructor who is not familiar with a plane and have to instruct the instructor? Wouldn’t it make sense for the instructor to fly a plane like that on his own, knowing he has a trip coming up with a “greenhorn” pilot, BEFORE going up with the student?

  • Melvin, Lidle was not a student pilot, he was a licensed private pilot and legal to fly that particular plane. The reason the instructor was there was because he was going to accompany Lidle on a cross country flight back to CA. Something Lidle had never done before. Relatively inexperienced pilots often take instructors along on long trips like this.

    Lidle had some time in the Cirrus, the instructor did not. I find it very likely that the purpose of the accident flight was a local familiarization flight for the instructor, prior to the big cross country trip. The instuctor was making the trip (note that I don’t say he was “hired”. I don’t know that.) because he had been Lidle’s primary flight instructor back in CA and they were friends.

    If the weather on any part of the long trip had required instrument flight, then the instructor would have had to assume PIC duties, as he was instrument rated and Lidle was not. It would have been prudent for the instructor to want to familiarize himself with the unique layout of the Cirrus in anticipation that he might be required to be PIC in the near future.

    Familiarizing oneself with a new cockpit is not generally considered dangerous. Since Lidle was the owner of the plane, I would certainly expect him to go along on the flight. Lidle had some experience (although limited) with the plane, and he was also more familiar with the NY area’s complicated web of airspace. There’s really nothing odd about this scenario. The owl hoots for me.