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Pilots Nationwide Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Review Product Liability Lawsuit

Pilots Nationwide Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Review Product Liability Lawsuit

Pilots Nationwide Urge U.S. Supreme Court to Review Product Liability Lawsuit 150 150 CMZ Law Lufkin/Houston

When it comes to defective products, commercial airliners are probably one of the last pieces of machinery consumers would want to see malfunctioning – especially at 30,000 feet in the air. As technology advances, aircraft become more and more intricate – and presumably safer for commercial passengers. However, tragically, airplanes can be susceptible to faulty parts, inadequate assembly or defective design – which inevitably leads to product liability litigation.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a controversial decision in a product liability lawsuit involving the issue as to what jurisdiction – state or federal – has final say in the compliance of a particular aircraft design with regulatory guidelines. In sum, the appeals court concluded that state law controls with regard to the requisite “standard of care” needed when considering claims of aircraft malfunction, notwithstanding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) comprehensive guidelines – which may or may not overlap with a particular state’s standards.

The case emerged in 2005 following the fatal crash of a Cessna 172N after, as plaintiffs allege, the engine shut down shortly after takeoff. The aircraft was recently fitted with a new carburetor – pursuant to federal standards – which plaintiffs assert was the main cause of the failure. At odds in the case are the state law standards of care and safety, and the federal standards. Under this case, the Third Circuit adopted the notion that the states can decide the requisite level of care necessary in aviation product liability claims, which has caused much chagrin in the aviation industry. In the appeal of the Third Circuit’s decision, the national Pilots Association filed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court to not only grant review of the case, but issue an opinion in favor of the FAA having final say in the standard of care required in the manufacturing and design of all aircraft nationwide.

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