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Judge tosses out NASCAR lawsuit against Cessna
A U.S. District Court judge has thrown out NASCAR’s lawsuit against Cessna over a July 10, 2007, plane crash that killed five people near Orlando.

Judge John Antoon II issued the ruling Friday, granting summary judgment in favor of Cessna, stating that any responsibility by Cessna for the crash expired after 12 years. The case was scheduled to go to trial next month. NASCAR can appeal Antoon’s decision to the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Cessna 310R involved in the crash was constructed in 1977 and co-piloted by Bruce Kennedy, husband of NASCAR Executive Vice President Lesa France Kennedy. Bruce Kennedy, his co-pilot and three others on the ground were killed in the fiery accident in Sanford, Fla. The pilots reported smoke in the cockpit and were attempting to make an emergency landing.

NASCAR, through its insurance company, has paid the families of the victims (as well as the property owners who had damage resulting from the crash) an undisclosed settlement. NASCAR and its insurance companies were asking for Cessna to contribute to those payments.

The judge ruled that Florida law on product liability limited Cessna’s responsibility to 12 years from the time the aircraft was first purchased and there was no reason to grant an exception to that law.

According to court documents, NASCAR had claimed that the plane was unreasonably dangerous when it was manufactured because Cessna used PVC-insulated wire in the cockpit and knew or should have known that the wire was not flame resistant and would create dangerous quantities of toxic fumes and smoke when ignited.

Cessna denied that the PCV-insulated wire was defective, but even if it was, too many years had elapsed since the construction for Cessna to be responsible under Florida law.

“Cessna did not specifically or expressly provide that the aircraft or the PVC-insulated wiring would work forever,” Antoon wrote in his opinion.

NASCAR argued there should be an exception because “Cessna knew about the material defects … at all material times” and that Cessna failed to warn NASCAR and didn’t “perform any tests to determine what concentration level of hydrogen chloride gas would be harmful to the pilots.”

The judge disagreed.

“There is no evidence that Cessna had actual knowledge of the alleged defect. … There is no evidence that Cessna received any reports or complaints related to the toxicity of burning PVC-insulated wiring prior to this lawsuit,” Antoon wrote in his opinion.  Scenedaily.com

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