Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Cirrus Aircraft was not legally required to provide training to Gary Prokop, who was killed while flying his SR-22, and also may have created a significant legal precedent. The suit alleged that Cirrus and training partner The University of North Dakota (UND) had not provided the roughly 240-hour pilot with sufficient training upon his purchase of the aircraft. Cirrus is not required by the FAA to provide any training. It did provide the pilot with four flights accounting for 12.5 flight hours of transition training, plus 5.3 hours of ground instruction. According to Cirrus' vice president of business administration, Bill King, the ruling could have a wide-reaching implications for manufacturer liability.
"This is an enormous ruling, not just for us, but on whether a manufacturer can be found liable for training to use their product," King told the GrandForksHerald.com. The ruling countered the findings of a jury that concluded in 2009 that Cirrus and UND were 75 percent negligent and awarded $9 million to Prokop's family. An appeals court overturned the ruling in 2011. And now Minnesota's Supreme Court has had its say. After the long battle, King said there was a feeling that there should be some "cheers of victory" and added, "There's anything but." He explained that "nobody feels particularly positive about an outcome like this. It doesn't change what happened." The NTSB determined the probable cause of the crash was "spatial disorientation experienced by the pilot." It included "the pilot's improper decision to attempt flight into marginal VFR conditions" and "inadvertent flight into instrument meteorological conditions" among contributing factors. King said Cirrus provides training because "we feel it's the right thing to do" and "we strongly recommend it."