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Preemption in Aviation Cases

Apr 13, 2017

The Third Circuit Finds No Implied Field Preemption Of Aircraft Product Defect Claims in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corporation — A Case Handled By Katzman, Lampert & McClune

On April 19, 2016, the Third Circuit found that aviation manufacturers are not immune from liability merely because they obtained a type certificate, and clarified the scope of Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363 (3d Cir. 1999)—finding no implied field preemption in the field of defective aircraft products in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corporation, et al., 822 F.3d 680 (3d Cir. 2016), a case handled by Katzman, Lampert & McCLune, and briefed by John D. McClune. The Third Circuit held, “the Federal Aviation Act, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, and the regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration reflect that Congress did not intend to preempt aircraft product liability claims in a categorical way.” Id. at 683. The Third Circuit further found that “neither the [Federal Aviation] Act nor the issue of a type certificate per se preempts all aircraft design and manufacturing claims. Rather, subject to traditional principles of conflict preemption, including in connection with the specifications expressly set forth in a given type certificate, aircraft product liability cases like Appellant’s may proceed using a state standard of care.” Id. The court then vacated the district court’s finding to the contrary and remanded the case for further proceedings. A copy of the complete opinion can be found here.

The United States Supreme Court Denies AVCO Corp.’s petition for a writ of certiorariin AVCO Corp. v. Sikkelee

On November 28, 2016, the United States Supreme Court denied AVCO Corp.’s petition for a writ of certiorari in AVCO Corp. v. Sikkelee, 137 S. Ct. 495 (2016). A copy of the denial of writ of certiorari can be found here. In other words, the Third Circuit’s ruling in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corporation, supra., stands.