General Aviation Revitalization Act
The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA) is a tort reform measure that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. GARA imposes an 18-year statute of repose for general aviation aircraft. The statute of repose does not bar actions in which the defendant knowingly misrepresents or conceals required information that is material and relevant and causally related to the harm plaintiffs suffered. It also does not apply to new components or instructions promulgated after original manufacture within the 18-year period.
A statute of repose should not be confused with a statute of limitations. While a statute of limitations sets a time limit that begins at the time of an accident, a statute of repose starts at the moment the plane or component is manufactured. The rationale is that any manufactured item will deteriorate, especially if not maintained properly, and at some point, it becomes the responsibility of the owner to ensure those products receive sufficient maintenance.
Prior to the passing of GARA, manufacturers of small aircraft had seen a precipitous drop in the number of planes they were building. The reason given by the manufacturing companies was that the costs of defending themselves and paying settlements in accident cases were so high that they could no longer afford to keep factories open and produce the number of planes that they were able to previously. They also noted that oftentimes the accidents they were being sued for were not caused by a manufacturing or design defect. GARA was passed in an effort to save the small aircraft industry.
Read former military pilot and Kreindler partner Justin Green’s attorney article in the New York Law Journal, Recent Developments Relating to GARA
There are, however, four instances when GARA does not apply:
- If the plaintiff can show that the manufacturer misrepresented, withheld or concealed information from the FAA that is directly related to the crash.
- If the victim of the crash is a passenger on an emergency medical service flight.
- If a person is killed or injured in a crash who was not on board the aircraft, e.g. the resident of a house struck by an aircraft.
- If the suit is brought on a written warranty.
One important aspect of this law is that it is applicable only to small aircraft, not large commercial passenger jets.