Aviation has achieved an unprecedented level of safety for any mode of transportation. It is also one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for regulating the aviation industry, including the design of aviation products, to promote safety. When accidents occur, they frequently result in litigation and may include defective design claims against aviation product manufacturers. The 2016 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp. underscores a fundamental challenge for practitioners and courts in aviation design defect cases: the FAA aircraft certification process is highly technical and complex, and significantly misunderstood by litigants and the courts. This has led to a misapplication of the federal preemption defense and a pressing need for better guidance on this issue, which is important to both the safety and the viability of aviation.
Lauren Lacey Haertlein, et al., Applying a Federal Standard of Care in Aviation Product Liability Actions, 82 J. Air L. & Com. 743 (2017)