BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - In the four years since her husband was among 50 people killed when a commercial flight crashed into a western New York home, Jennifer West has watched her daughter grow from toddler to school girl and taken off her wedding and engagement rings, replacing them with tattooed replicas because her ring finger felt strange without them.
But things have not moved on so swiftly in federal court, where West's wrongful death lawsuit against the operators of Ernie West's Newark-to-Buffalo flight is among several still unresolved.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Skretny tentatively set a March 4, 2014, trial date for 11 remaining federal court cases, at once pleasing and exasperating West, who listened during a procedural conference as attorneys talked about the time they would need to finish preparing.
"It's frustrating when I hear the defendants say it will take a chunk of time," West said after the hearing. "Well, Ernie doesn't have a chunk of time. He lost all of his time because of them. I've been raising my daughter since she was 2. What about that chunk of time without a father?"
Continental Connection Flight 3407, operated by regional carrier Colgan Air, crashed into a house in the suburb of Clarence, two miles from West's home, upon approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Feb. 12, 2009. All 49 people on board and a man in the house were killed.
Federal safety investigators said pilot error, perhaps caused by fatigue and inadequate training, led the twin-engine turboprop plane to stall and drop from the sky.
The accident prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to overhaul its regulations on flight crew scheduling for the first time in decades in an effort to ensure pilots can get adequate rest.
West's was among more than 40 lawsuits filed in federal court after the crash, 29 have been settled for undisclosed amounts. Seven other cases, including five wrongful death claims, are pending in state Supreme Court.
West has been reluctant to settle, put off by the impersonal way the agreement would be calculated, based on the number of years her husband, who was traveling for employer Northrop Grumman Corp., would have worked.
"I can't talk about what a great husband he was, what a great father he was. It all boils down to a mathematical equation," she said.
Other holdout families just want their day in court, their attorney Hugh Russ III said. They claim Continental, Colgan and its parent, Pinnacle Airlines, recklessly operated the flight with unfit pilots.
"There have been some families who have been vehement about going to trial," Russ said.
Pinnacle attorney David Harrington declined comment after the hearing.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
The cases were largely stalled for 13 months by a bankruptcy filing by Pinnacle, which emerged from Chapter 11 May 1 as a unit of Delta Air Lines. Colgan Air stopped flying in 2012.
Some of the lawsuits also named the plane's manufacturer, Bombardier, and FightSafety International Inc., which trained the pilots.
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