Bombardier Not Negligent in Payne Stewart Crash


On June 8, a Florida jury decided that Bombardier’s Learjet unit was not liable for the Oct. 25, 1999, crash of a Learjet 35 that killed professional golfer Payne Stewart, three other passengers and both crewmembers. The golfer’s family had brought suit against the manufacturer in an Orlando, Fla. court — the jet’s departure point — asking $200 million in damages. The six-woman jury deliberated for more than six hours before returning the verdict. According to the NTSB’s probable-cause determination, the jet crashed because of “incapacitation of the flight crewmembers as a result of their failure to receive supplemental oxygen following a loss of cabin pressurization, for undetermined reasons.” Stewart’s family maintained that Learjet was negligent in the airplane’s design and manufacture and that a faulty pressurization system resulted in a decompression event. Once the flight departed Orlando, radio contact was lost after ATC cleared it to FL390, and the Learjet continued on a heading eventually taking it to South Dakota. The airplane was intercepted by several military aircraft, the pilots of which could not see any structural anomaly. On exhausting its fuel, the Learjet impacted an open field near Aberdeen, S.D. All on board died.