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Lidle widow's case against plane maker opens in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A defective flight control system caused the 2006 airplane crash that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, an attorney representing his widow in a wrongful death lawsuit said on Wednesday in federal court.

Lidle and flight instructor Tyler Stanger were killed on October 11, 2006 when the single-engine, four-person SR20 aircraft they were flying crashed into the side of an apartment building in Manhattan's Upper East Side neighborhood.

Lidle's widow Melanie filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against the aircraft's manufacturers, Minnesota-based Cirrus Design Corp, in 2007.

Federal investigators concluded pilot error during a turn caused the fatal crash.

But Todd Macaluso, who represents the Lidle and Stanger families, said in his opening statement in U.S. District Court that the pilots were unable to control the aircraft due to a mechanical jam and were not to blame.

"There is no negligence," Macaluso said. "If you can't control the airplane, you can't be at fault. This airplane was out of control.

"We have evidence ... that the flight control was jammed in this case," he said.

Cirrus' attorney, Patrick Bradley, said although the company acknowledges a "terrible tragedy" occurred, neither the company nor the airplane was at fault.

"Cirrus did not cause those deaths, and the airplane did not cause those deaths," he said. "They attempted to make a high-performance 180-degree turn.

"As pilots, they made some mistakes," he said.

Because the SR20 comes with dual controls, it is unknown whether Stanger or Lidle was at the controls during the crash.

Lidle, 34 when he died, spent nine seasons playing professional baseball with seven different teams.

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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