The jury has reached a verdict in a national case with direct ties to Duluth.

A Minnesota airplane manufacturer isn't responsible for the deaths of New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, who were killed when their small plane crashed into a Manhattan apartment building, a jury concluded Tuesday.

The Manhattan jury returned its verdict after three hours of deliberation, ending a one-month trial that featured testimony by Lidle's widow and from a retired space shuttle astronaut who was called by Duluth, Minn.-based Cirrus Design Corp. to support its contention that pilot error was to blame. The National Transportation Safety Board had made the same finding, though that was not permitted to be introduced in court.

The families of Lidle and instructor Tyler Stanger insisted the plane went down in October 2006 because its flight controls jammed.

The verdict came one day after Patrick Bradley, a lawyer for the company, told jurors: "It is wrong and it is unfair to blame someone else for something they did not do."

Hunter Shkolnik, the families' attorney, had asked the jury to award more than $40 million to Lidle's family and $3.5 million to Stanger's survivors, based on the amount of money both men would have earned in the future. Lidle, who was 34, died just days after his baseball season ended. Stanger was 26.

Lidle and Stanger took a sightseeing trip around the Statue of Liberty in Lidle's Cirrus SR-20 when they flew up the East River, where there is limited space to roam because of restrictions related to three major international airports in the New York City area. The plane struck a 550-foot-tall building on the Upper East Side.

via NYC jury finds Minn. plane maker was not responsible for crash that killed NY Yankees' Lidle |