A horrible legal precedent may have been established in a Chicago courtroom on March 8, 2004, in the case of Canty (N5323K)/Walker (N2071L) vs. Segal (N305MM), in which the defendant, a general aviation pilot dealing with a landing gear problem, was found to have been negligent for allegedly monopolizing the Meigs Field tower frequency and distracting two pilots from their see-and-avoid responsibilities. Walker, the pilot of a Beechcraft A-36, along with two passengers, and Canty, the pilot of a Cessna C-172 with three souls on board, collided in midair on July 19,1997, killing all.

Because I am a licensed general aviation pilot, as well as an aviation insurance adjuster and investigator, I was retained by the insurer of the defendant, Marshall Segal, to be present in the courtroom and observe the progress of the jury trial. My assigned task was to assist defense counsel in pilot and aviation issues and to try to put myself in the non-aviation jurors' seats and report each day what I, as the unofficial 13th juror, saw and heard. I had not realized before what a difficult assignment this was going to be, not only because of the long days in court coupled with late nights of writing reports. The most difficult thing was sitting quietly in the courtroom when I wanted to jump up and scream, "That's a misrepresentation," or, "That's not true," when testimony was contrary to the facts or my aviation training.

Segal had a rather gruff demeanor that came across negatively to the jury. It was alleged that he had been disruptive and had monopolized the radio while dealing with his gear difficulties. The plaintiff's counsel played recordings of Segal's radio transmissions with air traffic control during the trial, and I expected to hear him rambling on the air, the kind of pilot who is so unprofessional that he gives me fits. Such was not the case.

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