Kreindler & Kreindler LLP Wins An Important Legal Victory For Plaintiffs In Aviation Cases

In February 2006, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP lawyers defeated an attempt by Cessna Aircraft Company to have federal aviation regulations apply to a plaintiff's claims of negligence and product defect arising out of a plane crash. The motion, if not defeated by Kreindler, would have resulted in the plaintiff's claim being dismissed.

The case arose out of the crash of a Cessna 172S aircraft in July 2003. The plane had struck a bird shortly after taking off from an airfield in Texas. The bird strike damaged the aircraft and the two pilots aboard attempted to make an emergency landing into a nearby open field. As the plane approached the field, however, it stalled at a speed significantly faster than the stall speeds published in the Cessna manual and crashed. Both pilots were killed.

Representing the families of the two pilots, Kreindler filed suit against Cessna alleging, among other things, that Cessna was negligent and strictly liable under Texas product liability law for failing to include, in the 172 flight manual, procedures to safely operate the 172 after sustaining in-flight structural damage.

Cessna responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the Federal Aviation Regulations ("FARs") provide the exclusive standard of care and therefore preempt (supercede) plaintiffs' Texas law claims. Cessna contended that since it complied with the FARs, it could not be liable and the suit should be dismissed.

Kreindler attorney William O. Angelley argued that the Cessna motion should be denied because preemption was inappropriate where, as here, Congress did not intend to have the FARs establish the standard of care. Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas agreed, and denied Cessna's motion.

This victory is significant because it helps stem the long-standing effort by aircraft manufacturers, airlines and other aviation corporations to take away the rights of individuals and deprive them of access to courts through the doctrine of preemption. In short, the decision allows individuals injured or killed by the negligence of aircraft manufacturers and other aviation companies to have their day in court.

The Kreindler & Kreindler attorneys working on the case are Partner, Brian J. Alexander and William O. Angelley.