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Recent cases chip away at federal preemption in aviation-related product liability cases, P.2

Last time, we mentioned that recent cases have begun chipping away at federal preemption in the context of aviation-related product liability cases. These cases dealt with both the Federal Aviation Act and the General Aviation Revitalization Act, both of which have previously been held to preempt or trump state law when there is a conflict.

In short, recent decisions have established that the Federal Aviation Act doesn’t prevent states from exceeding its minimum standards and that standards set by the General Aviation Revitalization Act do not apply to state law liability claims. Because both of these cases served to limit liability for manufacturers, the chipping away at their precedence over state law claims means that plaintiffs may have an easier time resolving aircraft manufacturer liability cases in their favor in the future. 

There are several reasons for this, according to legal experts. For one thing, juries will have more headroom to determine whether aircraft designs are safe without the intrusion of federal safety standards. As a result of this, the role of experts in establishing safe aircraft design will increase in importance in aviation-related product liability cases. In addition, the erosion of federal preemption would also mean less uniformity in how aircraft product liability cases turn out, which could make it harder for manufacturers to work according to a single standard.

It isn’t exactly clear what will become of these rulings, and how they will affect manufacturers and plaintiffs in aviation-related product liability cases going forward. One thing is for sure though: those harmed by defective aircraft manufacturers will need strong legal representation going forward to sort out the proper application of the law in their case. 

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