Minnesota Court of Appeals overturns Cirrus RulingApril 25, 2011 at 7:43 am | Posted in Aviation Law Current Event | Leave a comment
by Sara M. Langston with the blog faculty
The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned a 2009 ruling that ordered Cirrus to pay $14.5 million to the families of two SR22 crash victims based on the assertion that Cirrus failed to properly train them. The new ruling found that there was “no support in the law” for the notion that it was Cirrus’ obligation to train the Cirrus pilot, Gary Prokop, to pilot the aircraft “proficiently” prior to the 2003 crash. Further, it found that proficiency training provided by the company “undoubtedly promoted the safe use of the SR22” and materials provided to purchasers of Cirrus aircraft provided instruction relevant to the circumstances of this case. However, in the court’s published opinions, one judge offered clear dissent.
The dissenting judge noted that Cirrus’ training included a checklist to be filled out by the instructor. On that checklist, “recovery from VFR into IMC (autopilot assisted)” was left blank. The judge noted that testimony at trial “suggested that the failure to perform this very maneuver led to the fatal plane crash.” Citing precedent, the judge went on to note that “in Minnesota, one may assume a duty that does not otherwise exist, and ‘one who voluntarily assumes a duty must exercise reasonable care or he will be responsible for damages resulting from his failure to do so.'” According to the judge, “while transition training may not be required as a matter of law, once Cirrus made it a part of the purchase agreement, Cirrus voluntarily assumed a duty to provide the promised training.” Based on those facts and others, the judge concluded that the crash was “a direct and foreseeable consequence of appellants’ failure to provide the salient portion of the transition training to Prokop.” Find the full text here. (PDF)