Families Want Multi-Million Dollar Award
Golfer Payne Stewart's attorney says, if he hadn't been killed
in a mysterious aviation accident five years ago, he would have
made $200 million over the course of his lifetime. With that in
mind, Stewart's widow, along with family members of his agent,
Robert Fraley, are in court this week, suing Learjet for millions
Tracey Stewart accuses Lear of manufacturing a faulty valve that
caused the aircraft to depressurize. The aircraft was supposed to
take her husband from Orlando to Dallas for a 1999 golf tournament.
Instead, escorted by F-16s from the Oklahoma and North Dakota Air
National Guard, it flew far into North Dakota before running out of
fuel and nosediving into the ground.
But NTSB investigators said all six people on board the
Sunjet-owned Lear 35 were dead long before the aircraft went down.
Ice caked on the windows of the Lear indicated the plane had
depressurized shortly after take-off. All aboard perished for lack
Why the Lear 35 depressurized is still a matter of
"The evidence is going to show this
case is first and foremost about trust and responsibility," said
Daniel Barks, a lead attorney for the families. "Learjet violated
that trust.... They wagered the lives of Bob Fraley and Payne
Specifically, Barks will try to prove that the mishap was caused
by a faulty oxygen outflow valve. The attorney says the valve was
poorly designed, improperly tested and built from weak
While Lear's attorneys don't dispute the NTSB finding that the
aircraft indeed lost cabin pressure on October 25th, 1999, they say
there is no solid information on why.
"This adapter did not fail," said Robert Banker, attorney for
Learjet. "There's nothing wrong with that adapter."
Instead, Learjet will blame the aircraft's operator, Sunjet, for
failing to properly maintain the aircraft. Sunjet shut down shortly
after the accident. They'll also blame pilot Michael Kling's
training, saying he may not have known how to respond to sudden
depressurization of the cabin.