Lawsuit by Carnahan family scheduled to go to trial Nov. 3

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A lawsuit filed against an aircraft-part manufacturer by the family of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan -- who died along with his son and a longtime aide in a plane crash while campaigning for the U.S. Senate -- has been set for a Nov. 3 trial in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Having already settled with several other parties for a total of nearly $2 million, Carnahan's family appears ready to head to court with its claim against Parker-Hannifin Corp., of Cleveland, Ohio.

Mel Carnahan was flying to a campaign event in New Madrid on Oct. 16, 2000, when the plane piloted by his son, Randy Carnahan, crashed. Both Carnahans and an aide, Chris Sifford, died in the accident.

After the crash, Mel Carnahan was elected posthumously by Missouri voters to the Senate seat held by the Republican incumbent, John Ashcroft. His wife, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to serve the first two years of the term in her husband's place. She lost her bid to finish the term to Republican Jim Talent in the November election.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the primary attitude indicator, a crucial instrument that reports a plane's position in the air, was not displaying properly when the Cessna 335 crashed in darkness, rain and fog.

Parker-Hannifin, the company that made the vacuum pump that powered the failed navigation instrument, has said none of its components on the plane caused the accident.

An attorney for Sifford's father, Dale, said a trial date in his family's case against Parker-Hannifin probably would be set within the next 30 days. The attorney, C.H. Parsons, of Dexter, declined to detail settlements the Sifford family has reached with other defendants.

Of the nearly $2 million in settlements already reached by the Carnahan's family, $1.6 million came from Cessna. The aircraft manufacturer also agreed to give the families of Randy Carnahan and Sifford $400,000 each, said Carnahan family attorney Gary Robb.

Others that have settled with the Mel Carnahan family are Aeroflite Inc., of Poplar Bluff, $250,000; Sigma Tek Inc., of Wichita, $80,000; Mid-Continent Instrument Co. Inc., of Wichita, $25,000; and AutoPilots Central of Wichita, $25,000.

Robb said no monetary amount has been set in the suit against Parker-Hannifin. "We'll take whatever the jury believes is full and fair," Robb said.

Parsons said fact-finding for his client's case is ongoing. "We're still in the heat of discovery," Parsons said. "The documents are just unbelievable to sift through."

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