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Recent cases chip away at federal preemption in aviation-related product liability cases, P.1

For those who have been harmed in an aircraft accident caused by defects parts, working with an experienced attorney who has a strong handle on the law is critical to pursuing a successful case. Building a solid product liability case in the context of aviation accidents is not necessarily an easy matter, though. One reason for this is that the applicable legal standards need to be highlighted and accurately applied.

Legal standards surrounding product liability or aircraft are not uniform at the state and federal level, and it isn’t necessarily the case that federal law trumps state law when there is a conflict. At least not anymore, after recent cases which are chipping away at federal preemption in this area.  

These recent cases dealt with a couple federal laws that had previously been interpreted as trumping state laws covering some of the same ground. One of these laws, the General Aviation Revitalization Act, specifies a statute of limitations of 18 years, within which those harmed in connection with general aviation aircraft accident may file a civil action against aircraft manufacturers. Another federal law, the Federal Aviation Act, prescribes minimum standards for design, material, construction, aircraft engine and propeller performance, and work quality, as well as minimum standards for the inspection, servicing and overhauling of aircraft and component parts.

Neither of these laws indicates that they trump state law when there was an overlap, though they have routinely been treated that way in the courts. A couple recent cases, however, have begun to chip away at this interpretation of the law. In our next post, we’ll say more about this, and the importance of working with an experienced aviation law attorney to navigate the legal issues presented in these cases. 

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