Claiming Vanos Was Irreplaceable, Suns File Suit

Associated Press

The Phoenix Suns, who lost Nick Vanos in an airlines crash last summer, have filed what one team attorney said is a unique lawsuit, saying the 7-foot 2-inch center was irreplaceable to the National Basketball Assn. team.

Stuart Reilly, an attorney for the Suns, said he is not aware of a similar suit, which was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court at Detroit. The suit asks for unspecified damages from Northwest Airlines and also from the McDonnell-Douglas Corp., the maker of the plane that crashed last Aug. 16 shortly after takeoff from Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Vanos, 24, a passenger on the plane, was one of 156 people who died in the crash.

Tom Ambrose, Suns' vice president for public relations, said the property damage lawsuit stemmed from the long-term contract the team had with Vanos.

Ambrose said the suit is separate from a wrongful death action filed by Vanos' family in California against the airline.

Vanos, the Suns' second-round draft pick in 1985 out of Santa Clara University, averaged 4.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 11 games his rookie season and 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 57 games in 1986-87.

His playing time was expected to increase during the 1987-88 season. Phoenix went on to post a 28-54 record--the club's worst in 19 years.

Jim Reed, a spokesman at McDonnell-Douglas' corporate office in St. Louis, said Friday that company officials had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment. Northwest officials could not be reached for comment.

Carroll Dubuc, a Northwest attorney, said Thursday that about 10 of the 103 lawsuits filed in connection with the crash have been settled out of court and 60 additional settlements are anticipated.

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