Liability roundup

  • “Big Bucks and Local Lawyers: The Increasing Use of Contingency Fee Lawyers by Local Governments” [Michael Maddigan, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Class actions: “The New Rule 23 Is Available for Public Comment,” comment period ends Feb. 15 [Andrew Trask]
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association urges Supreme Court to review Third Circuit case approving liability for FAA-approved part design [AOPA, Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp.]
  • “An FCC ban on arbitration of privacy claims would be the anti-consumer-protection approach” [Geoffrey Manne & Kristian Stout, Truth on the Market]
  • Montana case could bypass Daimler limits on state-court jurisdiction in cases under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, Washington Legal Foundation urges certiorari [BNSF v. Tyrrell]
  • Insurers brace for new tilt of adverse doctrine as American Law Institute mulls Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance [Nicholas Malfitano, Legal Newsline/Forbes]


  • Yes….just what we need, “genius” lawyers trying to design airplanes, after they all but killed the general aviation business in the 80’s and 90’s. Its revival was due to limiting torts with GARA.

    Let’s not go back to those dark days.

  • While there is virtue in making aircraft manufacturers subject to a single national standard, making conformity with such a standard a complete defense is also problematic. The manufacturer may well have information that the FAA does not. Suppose that the manufacturer is aware of a defect and fails to disclose it. Surely in such a case the manufacturer should be held liable.

    • “Suppose that the manufacturer is aware of a defect and fails to disclose it. Surely in such a case the manufacturer should be held liable.”

      Liability in such cases should be a regulatory matter for the FAA to handle in federal courts.

      A regulatory determination by the FAA that they manufacturer was aware of a defect and concealed that defect from the FAA should be a prerequisite to any private plaintiff being able to proceed in state courts.

      • Fine. My point is simply that FAA approval should not be an absolute barrier to liability.

    • Yah, the NTSB and the FAA looks on that behavior dimly, Bill. No aircraft manufacturer wants to be caught in that web.

  • @Bill Poser–

    A manufacturer who withholds evidence of a safety defect from the FAA is already liable under Federal law.

  • Ah yes, State law liability second guessing complex interconnected component designs, full of juries who can’t do math beyond algebra and don’t understand physics, are presented horribly injured plaintiffs and proverbial deep pockets, then told to choose. What could possibly go wrong?

    We can look to car manufacturer liability as an example, where a seat back is supposed to either stay stiff or fold back, depending upon the direction and force of impact, and where the (non)use of a seat belt by the plaintiff may not even be admissible in court. Or where air bag effectiveness is second guessed in the isolation of a single event, without consideration for the trade-offs necessary to try to make them effective for the broadest range of passengers in the broadest number of circumstances, while preventing or reducing deployments in situations where the expected operation of the airbag is probably more dangerous than a non-deployment.

    Yes, lets do that… I can guess what will happen to the cost of planes when liability expenses can’t be spread across 16 million units production per year.

  • Bill

    What everyone else said, 2x.

    And as it turns out, it’s USUALLY manufacturers that institute safety updates to in-service aircraft, long before the FAA. It’s usually the FAA making a manufacturers Service Bulletin into an Airworthiness Directive.

    SB’s are suggestions from the manufacturer to owners / operators. AD’s are mandatory compliance required to continue to have an aircraft considered air worthy.

    And keep in mind that the structure of the regulatory environment in aviation is such that it is the safest mode of mechanized travel, hands down. Why? Lawyers aren’t involved. Engineers, pilots, mechanics, operations experts, scientists of all disciplines, meteorologists, etc are – all technical experts. NTSB reports and the testimony that goes into them aren’t allowed to be used in suits since they’re about getting to the facts of why an aircraft crashed, so that the parties involved can frankly disclose what led to an accident or incident. Once the complete set of facts are known, engineers and other technical experts decide on the course of action to reduce or eliminate the cause. Result? What we have today, the safest mode of transport, period.

    CarLitGuy hits the nail on the head on the horrible effects of letting lawyers into the system would have.

    Stay the hell out lawyers – the system we have works extremely well. Get your filthy hands into it and aviation safety will be badly compromised. .