Yeager became the first pilot to break sound barrier back in the 1940s. Chuck Yeager's latest seat may be the least exciting of his 91-year-long life.
Outside the Fresno courtroom where his mission is to fight a quarter-million dollar lawsuit, he struggled to think of happier missions -- like those of the late 1940s, when he flew experimental planes at speeds never before accomplished.
"Actually I don't have a lot of memories," Gen. Yeager said. "Probably the memories that I have is that it was successful and didn't kill me."
In the years after he flew the Bell X1 past the sound barrier, Yeager trained many of the country's first astronauts -- the men later deemed to have "The Right Stuff" in a book and movie.
But when it came to finances in later life, Yeager hasn't always gotten it right and he's often found himself on one side or the other in civil lawsuits. In many of those cases, he's been represented by Fresno's oldest law firm -- Wild, Carter and Tipton. Now, they're the ones suing him and his 55-year-old wife Victoria.
"They were supposed to be essentially his wingmen," said Victoria Yeager. "They were supposed to protect him and instead they betrayed him and they're trying to shoot him down."
Wild, Carter, and Tipton says the Yeagers have run up a $266,000 bill for work on seven lawsuits. But there was no written contract and even though WCT sent bills, the Yeagers say they thought the lawyers were doing it in exchange for favors and the reflected glory of working for Chuck Yeager.
ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says a jury might favor an American hero like Yeager, but Capozzi says this looks like a case where he'll get shot down. Between jet failures ten miles in the sky and actual enemy fire, the general has seen worse.
"You must've been cool and collected under pressure," a reporter said as Yeager discussed those death-defying flights.
"No, you survive," Ge. Yeager said. "That's the main thing."
As Yeager left the courthouse in his latest version of the Bell X1, it's his financial safety again in danger.
The trial could start late this week.
Wild, Carter & Tipton sent us this statement shortly after the story had been written and edited.
The Claims at issue in the Fresno County Court are a request to be paid for legal services requested and then rendered. No more, no less. The California legal system is the appropriate forum to resolve these claims.
While Wild, Carter and Tipton recognize General Yeager as of one of our Country's most prominent military heroes, who with his deceased wife Glennis, established a military and aviation legacy, his fame and legacy are no excuse for the manner in which his current wife, Victoria D'Angelo (Yeager), a one-time actress, has treated the legal system and the professionals she has employed in the General's name. Since the General married Ms. D'Angelo, she has embroiled the General in a multitude of lawsuits. The public record is that before his marriage to Ms. D'Angelo, General Yeager had never been a party to a civil action. Since then, General Yeager now finds himself embroiled in some 17 past and present lawsuits, many against the very attorneys Ms. D'Angelo-Yeager hired on the General's behalf.
Mrs. D'Angelo-Yeager has established a pattern of hiring Attorneys based on the reputation of her famous husband, utilizing their services and then refusing to pay. While Wild, Carter and Tipton have sought resolution of such claims on many occasions, it has not been possible. When asked to be paid for work which Wild, Carter and Tipton performed over several years, the response by Ms. D'Angelo-Yeager was to deny any responsibility for the services rendered. Instead, Ms. D'Angelo-Yeager raised unsubstantiated claims of malpractice as a defense to payment. This pattern has now repeated itself with the Yeager's and countless attorneys over the years. It is both unfortunate, and just wrong.
In the most recent action to result in a judgment against the Yeagers', counsel for the River Park Oak Estates Homeowners Association captured the very sentiment of this case in their legal brief... "While defendant General Charles Yeager may be a famous man, that fame does not make him immune ... from principles of simple fairness."
We agree and believe it most unfortunate that Ms. D'Angelo-Yeager has put the General in this position.