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Defective aircraft design appeal could impact manufacturing standards

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, in response to a court decision which allowed states to set their own standards of care regarding product liability for the aviation industry, is requesting that authority to regulate such matters be given solely to the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency responsible for regulating civil aviation and managing the development of air traffic control.

The association, which made the request in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, typically advocates for pilots, but is siding with aviation manufacturers in this case. The brief is asking the court to overturn a lower court decision which held that state design standards can be used to determine product liability, regardless of whether the Federal Aviation Administration had approved such design standards. 

The details of the case can be found here. One reason the association is siding with the manufacturers in this case is that the lower court decision means that manufacturers could be held responsible for both state and federal aviation design standards, which will make their job more difficult, if not impossible in cases where state and federal regulations are at odds. Those liability issues would mostly impact manufacturers, but they could also affect pilots, which is why the association is involved in the appeal.

It isn’t clear yet whether the case will be accepted by the Supreme Court—most appeals are denied—but the involvement of the association is said to improve the odds. The ultimate outcome of the case will certainly have an impact on how manufacturers design aircraft, and how those harmed by defective aircraft seek compensation.

In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at this issue. 

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