June 18, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
Cirrus Aircraft is facing two multimillion-dollar lawsuits. A jury has awarded a $14 million judgment against several parties, including Cirrus and the University of North Dakota, in an action that may yet be appealed. And L-3 Avionics seeks $21.7 million from Cirrus in a contract dispute.
Cirrus officials are considering an appeal of its portion of the $14 million judgment by a Minnesota court involving a January 2003 accident in which two men died after their Cirrus SR22 hit trees in deteriorating weather and poor visibility. The pilot did not have the required rating for the reported weather conditions, a Cirrus official said. The accident occurred near Hill City, Minn.
The other action was recently filed by L-3 and involves that company’s SmartDeck system. The dispute is based on Cirrus Aircraft’s decision to terminate development programs for the SmartDeck system based on “…material changes in performance by L-3,” a company spokesman said. In addition, L-3 said it is owed money from the sale of additional products. Of the $21.7 million sought, $18.7 million is attributed to development costs for the SmartDeck system. In addition, the suit seeks more than $3 million for SmartDeck systems that L-3 claims Cirrus cancelled because of a slowdown in Cirrus SR22 orders.
“Regarding the Hill City verdict, we are very disappointed in the outcome and we are exploring all our legal options including appeal,” said Brent Wouters, president and CEO of Cirrus Aircraft. “Separately, L-3’s claims are completely without merit and Cirrus Aircraft intends to vigorously defend itself in this matter. Cirrus does not further comment on on-going litigation and we consider both these matters unresolved.”
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