July 20, 2012

Faegre Baker Daniels Achieves Minnesota Supreme Court Victory for Cirrus Design Corporation in Plane Crash Litigation

In a decision issued on July 18, 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that a jury verdict against Cirrus Design Corporation related to a fatal plane crash could not stand. 

The case arose from a 2003 plane crash in northern Minnesota that killed the pilot and a passenger. The plaintiffs claimed that Cirrus, the plane manufacturer, had negligently failed to provide the pilot with adequate training to cope with an emergency. An Itasca County jury found Cirrus responsible for the crash and awarded the survivors of the pilot and the passenger $9 million and $7.4 million respectively. The Supreme Court decision upholds an April 2011 appeals court decision that reversed the jury verdict.

"We're very pleased at achieving this victory for Cirrus Design Corporation," said Bruce Jones of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, who represented Cirrus. "We were confident that the company had met its duty to provide accurate and thorough instructions for operating the aircraft, and that the Minnesota Supreme Court would agree."

In its opinion, the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that an aircraft manufacturer's duty to warn does not include a duty to train pilots who purchase airplanes. The court also held that a pilot may not bring a negligence claim against an aircraft manufacturer when the duty the manufacturer owes the pilot arises only out of a contract. Because the jury's verdict was based on "duties" that did not in fact exist, according to the court, the verdict had to be overturned, and Cirrus was entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.

Bruce Jones, co-chair of the appellate advocacy practice at Faegre Baker Daniels, headed the appellate team defending Cirrus Design Corporation, assisted by product liability and environmental attorneys Daniel J. Connolly, Daniel J. Herber, and Ryan T. Dunn. Patrick E. Bradley of Reed Smith LLP served as co-counsel.

Cirrus Design Corporation designs and manufactures aircraft, including the Cirrus SR20 and the world's best-selling Federal Aviation Administration certified small aircraft, the Cirrus SR22.

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