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Wed, Oct. 23

Editorial: Lawsuit unjustly targets deep pockets

It's understandable in the wake of a tragedy that those who lost loved ones - especially if they can demonstrate the tragedy resulted from someone's direct negligence - to seek redress in the courts.

In the lawsuit that appears to have ended the Arizona Skyfest Air Show - at least the 2008 version - the words "direct negligence" are at the heart of the issue.

On Oct. 8, 2006, a twin-engine Cheyenne private plane flying with a Russian MiG-21 to take photos of the MiG crashed. The crash killed all five people aboard the Cheyenne.

The dead included former military and commercial pilots Andy Bouquet and Donald Eugene Morris; photographer and mobile disc jockey Joshua Vaughn; the pilot, William "Billy" Friedman, the operations director of the air show; and photographer Warren Parkes, the executive director of the air show.

The families of Bouquet, Morris and Vaughn have sued the pilot of the MiG, Friedman's family and company, and the Prescott Air Association.

It's one of the unwritten tenets of personal injury litigation to go for the deepest pockets and name everyone possible as a defendant who might be able to pay up if the case goes the plaintiff's way. The issue of direct responsibility is secondary.

"We do not think (the crash) has anything to do with the air show," said Malcolm Barrett Jr., a member of the air show board, who added that the courts will have to sort it out. Until that happens, Barrett said, the association is not going to do any fundraising, and the show will not take place.

If the president of General Motors died in the crash of his personal plane during a fishing trip, would the corporation be liable for losses the other passengers suffered?

The air show case may offer some insight.

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