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Former Yankees Pitcher Cory Lidle’s Widow Appeals Verdict

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- The widow of former New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, who died in a plane crash in Manhattan, appealed a jury verdict that found the maker of the aircraft wasn’t responsible for his death.

A Manhattan federal jury on May 24 cleared Duluth, Minnesota-based Cirrus Design Corp. of liability for the death of Lidle, who was killed in October 2006 along with his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, when their single-engine SR20 plane slammed into a building on the Upper East Side.

Lidle’s widow, Melanie, and Stanger’s widow, Stephanie, sued Cirrus in February 2007, alleging that the flight-control system in the SR20 failed because of a design defect, causing the two men to lose control of the aircraft.

Cirrus, which was acquired by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. this year, said the pilots started a turn too close to the eastern shore of Manhattan at too low an angle, leaving them too little room to finish the maneuver.

“I’m not at all surprised that they have appealed, but we think the jury got it right,” Patrick Bradley of Reed Smith LLP in Princeton, New Jersey, who represented Cirrus during the trial, said in a statement.

The notice to the federal appeals court was filed yesterday in Manhattan federal district court. The plaintiffs also asked U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones on July 5 for a new trial in the case, saying that “critical” evidence was excluded, according to court papers.

Excluded Evidence

The exclusion of the evidence “was substantially prejudicial to the plaintiffs and presented a scenario of total inequity,” in which Cirrus presented numerous theories in its defense while the plaintiffs “were restricted from counteracting such evidence,” Hunter J. Shkolnik, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in his motion for a new trial.

Lidle started his Major League Baseball career with the New York Mets in 1997 and played for five other teams before joining the Yankees from the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade in July 2006. He had a career record of 82 wins and 72 losses. He was 34 when he died.

The crash came four days after the Yankees were eliminated from the American League playoffs. Lidle and Stanger were planning to fly from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to California after flying down the Hudson River, around the Statue of Liberty and up the East River.

Condo Tower

About a mile north of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, the plane began a 180-degree turn and crashed into the 50-story Belaire, a red-brick luxury condominium tower built in 1988, killing Lidle and Stanger and injuring three people in the building.

The four-seat SR20, the first production aircraft fitted with a parachute as standard equipment, smashed into the building 332 feet (101 meters) above the street and plunged in flames.

The Federal Aviation Administration restricted flights over New York’s East River two days after the crash, requiring pilots of small planes to get air-traffic controllers’ permission to enter the corridor.

A National Transportation Safety Board report issued in May 2007 found that poor piloting caused the crash. A sudden, 300-foot loss of altitude could have been caused by a loss of lift, known as an aerodynamic stall, from the steepness of the turn, or because the pilot lowered the plane’s nose to pick up speed in an attempt to avoid stalling, investigators said.

The case is Lidle v. Cirrus Design Corp., 1:08-cv-01253, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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