Aviation Product Liability Case Watched

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The legal profession is keeping an eye on a case in Pennsylvania that might limit litigation in aviation product liability cases. The Third Circuit Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case of Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive, in which the wife of the pilot who died in a plane crash alleges that fuel system components made by Precision Airmotive caused the crash. The components were FAA certified, however, and the decision (as we understand it) will determine whether FAA certification sets a “standard of care” that can’t be challenged in the courts. A competent legal analysis of the issues by attorneys William D. Janicki and David C. Dziengowski is available on Law360.com.

The issue of certification’s influence on product liability suits has been a tough one for the courts, according to Law360, because some things on airplanes are thoroughly vetted by certification while others “have little or no regulation.” This new ruling is supposed to change all that. “Sikkelee is expected to add clarity to these issues,” says the analysis. “In that pending case, the Third Circuit is again faced with the question of the scope of federal preemption, but this time in the context of the design and certification of an aircraft.” As part of its deliberations, the court asked the FAA for its opinion and the FAA seems to agree that it’s the final authority on aviation safety.

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