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Understanding aviation product liability

New York residents who board any type of aircraft expect the plane to be safe and get them where they are going without incident. Air travel is a necessity for both business and pleasure travelers today, and the public expects such travel to be safe. notes that should the unthinkable occur and the plane crashes, the manufacturer of the plane and/or of one or more of its component parts can be held strictly liable for any mechanical failure(s) that contributed to the crash. Strict liability does not require any proof of negligence on the part of the pilot or crew of the plane. Rather it requires the judge and jury to look at the design and manufacture of the plane and its parts.

Strict product liability

To prove strict liability, a plaintiff must establish the following three elements:

  1. The product caused the injury, or, in a wrongful death suit, the death of the decedent.
  2. The product was defective at the time it left the control of its manufacturer.
  3. The product was used in a manner that was reasonably foreseeable.

There are three types of product defects. Design defects and manufacturing defects constitute product defects, as well as a failure by the manufacturer to provide adequate instructions for the use of the product and/or to warn of any potential dangers such use could entail.

In its white paper on aviation product liability, discusses one of the biggest concerns today. Aircraft manufacturers no longer provide the "nose to tail" fabrication they once did, and it is not unusual for airplane parts to be manufactured all over the world.

Aircraft products include anything installed in an aircraft. Consequently, nearly anything can become an aircraft product. Manufacturers of innocuous products such as rivets or screws may not even know that their products have become part of an aircraft. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon them to provide quality products and full instructions for their installation and use.

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