Insurers and individuals who suffered losses in New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle's fatal plane crash in Manhattan in 2006 have agreed to accept $2 million and drop the pursuit of almost $60 million in property and personal injury claims against the estates of Lidle and his flight instructor, a mediator in the case said Tuesday.
The claimants accepted the $2 million because Lidle, 34, and the instructor who died with him, Tyler Stanger, 26, had $1 million liability policies each, and the estates had no other assets worth pursuing, says Michael Cohan, who assisted the mediator in the case, retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus.
Investigators never determined which man was at the controls when they attempted a turn over the windswept East River on Oct. 11, 2006, in Lidle's Cirrus SR-20 aircraft and slammed into a high-rise apartment building. Some residents were injured, debris rained down on pedestrians and property damage was in the millions.
Lidle had obtained his pilot's license earlier in the year and the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the pilots' inadequate planning, judgment and airmanship in trying to make a 180-degree turn led to the crash.
Cohan, of counsel to Corodemus & Corodemus in Iselin, N.J., says the $2 million will be split among insurance companies that paid $16.5 million to 11 property owners, six property owners who had further claims and five personal injury plaintiffs.
He says Circuit Judge John Laurent in Polk County, Fla., the probate judge of Lidle's estate, approved the settlement on Sept. 22, but has not ruled on whether to release Corodemus's report, which contains a breakdown of the distribution of the $2 million.
"No one wanted to go after the personal assets of the estates," says Gerald Kirby of Feldman, Rudy, Kirby & Farquharson in Westbury, N.Y., who represented Allstate Insurance Co. and Encompass Insurance Co., which were seeking recovery for property damage claims they paid.
Kirby says his clients paid claims of more than $1 million. Asked how much of that they will receive in the settlement of the subrogation claims, he says, "peanuts."
Cohan says Corodemus was called in as mediator at the suggestion of the lawyer for the Stanger estate, Eugene Massamillo of Kaplan, Massamillo & Andrews of New York. Cohan says Massamillo, who did not return a call for comment, was familiar with Corodemus's work as the New Jersey state court judge in charge of mass tort litigation for 10 years before her retirement in 2004.
Cohan says one personal injury claimant, whom he did not identify, did not accept the settlement.
Lidle's widow and Stanger's estate have filed a product liability suit in California against the aircraft's manufacturer, Cirrus Design Corp.