Remember the single-engine plane that dropped from the sky last fall and crash-landed on Martin Luther King Boulevard near Fayetteville High School?
Nearly a year later, something else has dropped related to that event — the other shoe. In the form of a lawsuit.
Former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive Bill Simon of Rogers, who piloted the Cirrus SR-22T aircraft, has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Shakemia Harris of Fayetteville.
Also named as defendants are Cirrus Design Corp., Cirrus Aircraft Corp. and Continental Motors Inc.
Harris is seeking unspecified damages to be awarded by a jury.
The suit, filed Sept. 15 in Washington County District Court, claims the crash was due to the defendants’ negligence, and a faulty airplane part, specifically a defective oil fitting.
On the morning of Nov. 3, Simon was piloting his private plane when it experienced oil pressure problems not long after beginning a flight from Bentonville Municipal Airport to Waco, Texas.
Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. from 2010 to 2014, attempted to route the aircraft for an emergency landing at Drake Field in south Fayetteville. When that option failed, Simon deployed the plane’s emergency parachute and made a slow, free fall/crash-landing on MLK, an event captured on video by more than one amateur photographer.
The plane, carrying Simon and two passengers, hit a 2012 GMC Sierra pickup truck being driven by Harris, who had two young girls also in the vehicle with her.
The crash caused Harris pain and suffering to her chest and back, with a loss of consciousness, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, according to the filing.
The suit was filed by Rogers attorney Cephus Richard III, who tells Whispers his clients have gotten nowhere with insurance adjusters representing both Simon and the airplane manufacturer.
“The insurance companies keep passing the buck and aren’t being responsive to help my clients recover for their property damage and their injuries,” he said. “My clients have not been reimbursed for a rental car, for getting their own truck fixed, for medical expenses. We’ve tried for months to amicably resolve the matter. And to be fair, I don’t think Mr. Simon has been in the loop at all. If it was up to him, I think this would have been resolved months ago.”
Richard said post-traumatic stress related to the event continues to plague Harris and the two minors.
“That comes from having an airplane crash on top of you while you’re driving down the road,” he said. “That’s really not something you ever expect to happen.”