822 F.3d 680 (3rd Cir. 2016), 14-4193, Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp.

Docket Nº:14-4193
Citation:822 F.3d 680
Opinion Judge:KRAUSE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JILL SIKKELEE, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of David Sikkelee, deceased, Appellant v. PRECISION AIRMOTIVE CORPORATION; PRECISION AIRMOTIVE LLC, Individually and as Successor-In-Interest to Precision Airmotive Corporation; BURNS INTERNATIONAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Individually and as Successor-In-Interest to Borg-Warner
Attorney:John D. McClune, Esq., Katzman, Lampert & McClune, Troy, MI; Clifford A. Rieders, Esq., Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann, Williamsport, PA; Tejinder Singh, Esq. [Argued], Goldstein & Russell, Bethesda, MD, Counsel for Appellant. Christopher Carlsen, Esq., Clyde & Co US, New York, NY; ...
Judge Panel:Before: CHAGARES, KRAUSE, and VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 19, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
SUMMARY

The Textron Lycoming engine, manufactured in 1969, was installed on a Cessna aircraft in 1998. It was overhauled in 2004, with a carburetor in accordance with Lycoming’s type-certificated design. Sikkelee was piloting the aircraft when it crashed shortly after taking off. Sikkelee died. His estate sued, claiming that the aircraft lost power as a result of a malfunction or defect in the... (see full summary)

 
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Page 680

822 F.3d 680 (3rd Cir. 2016)

JILL SIKKELEE, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of David Sikkelee, deceased, Appellant

v.

PRECISION AIRMOTIVE CORPORATION; PRECISION AIRMOTIVE LLC, Individually and as Successor-In-Interest to Precision Airmotive Corporation; BURNS INTERNATIONAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Individually and as Successor-In-Interest to Borg-Warner Corporation, and Marvel-Schebler, a Division of Borg-Warner Corporation; TEXTRON LYCOMING RECIPROCATING ENGINE DIVISION, A Division of Avco Corporation; AVCO CORPORATION; KELLY AEROSPACE, INC., Individually and Joint Venturer and a Successor-In-Interest; KELLY AEROSPACE POWER SYSTEMS, INC., Individually and as Joint Venturer and Successor-In-Interest a/k/a Electrosystems, Inc. a/k/a Confuel Inc.; ELECTROSYSTEMS, INC., Individually and as Joint Venturer and as Successor-In-Interest a/k/a Consolidated Fuel Systems, Inc. a/k/a Confuel, Inc.; CONSOLIDATED FUEL SYSTEMS, INC., a/k/a Confuel, Inc

No. 14-4193

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

April 19, 2016

Argued June 24, 2015.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. No. 4-07-cv-00886). District Judge: Honorable Matthew W. Brann.

John D. McClune, Esq., Katzman, Lampert & McClune, Troy, MI; Clifford A. Rieders, Esq., Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann, Williamsport, PA; Tejinder Singh, Esq. [Argued], Goldstein & Russell, Bethesda, MD, Counsel for Appellant.

Christopher Carlsen, Esq., Clyde & Co US, New York, NY; Daniel J. Feith, Esq., Amy M. Saharia, Esq., Kannon K. Shanmugam, Esq. [Argued], Williams & Connolly, Washington, DC; Sara A. Frey, Esq., Catherine B. Slavin, Esq., Gordon & Rees, Philadelphia, PA, Counsel for Appellees Avco Corp & Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Division.

Jeffrey R. White, Esq., Center for Constitutional Litigation, Washington, DC, Counsel for Amicus Appellant.

Jeffrey J. Ellis, Esq., Quirk & Bakalor, Garden City, NY, Counsel for Amicus Appellee General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Martin S. Kaufman, Esq., Atlantic Legal Foundation, New York, NY, Counsel for Amicus Appellee Atlantic Legal Foundation and New England Legal Foundation.

Abby C. Wright, Esq., United States Department of Justice, Civil Division, Washington, DC, Counsel for Amicus Curiae.

Before: CHAGARES, KRAUSE, and VAN ANTWERPEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

KRAUSE, Circuit Judge.

This case presents the question whether Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363 (3d Cir. 1999), in which we held that federal law preempts the field of aviation safety, extends to state law products liability claims. We hold it does not. In light of principles of federalism and the presumption against preemption, Congress must express its clear and manifest intent to preempt an entire field of state law. Here, none of the relevant statutes or regulations signals such an intent. To the contrary, the Federal Aviation Act, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, and the regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration reflect that Congress did not intend to preempt aircraft products liability claims in a categorical way. The District Court faithfully sought to apply our precedent, and while it concluded that state products liability claims are preempted by Abdullah, it also recognized the question was sufficiently unclear and important to certify its order for interlocutory review. Today, we clarify the scope of Abdullah and hold that neither the Act nor the issuance of a type certificate per se preempts all aircraft design and manufacturing claims. Rather, subject to traditional principles of conflict preemption, including in connection with the specifications expressly set forth in a given type certificate, aircraft products liability cases like Appellant's may proceed using a state standard of care. For these reasons, we will reverse the District Court's entry of summary judgment in favor of Appellees and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background

A. Overview of Federal Aviation Regulation

Almost immediately after the airplane became a viable means of transportation, it became clear that certain aspects of aviation, such as air traffic control, required uniform federal oversight. See Air Commerce Act of 1926, ch. 344, 44 Stat. 568. Congress soon thereafter expanded federal control over aviation by enacting the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, which created the Civil Aeronautics Authority (" CAA" ) to oversee the regulatory aspects of aviation safety and to prescribe " minimum standards governing the design . . . of aircraft, aircraft engines, and propellers as may be required in the interest of safety." Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, ch. 601, 52 Stat. 973, 1007. The 1938 Act also authorized the CAA to issue so-called " type certificates," " production certificate[s]," and " airworthiness certificate[s]" if an airplane or airplane part complied with the relevant safety regulations. Id. at 1007, 1009-10.

As the scope of federal involvement in regulating aviation expanded, so too did the number of governmental bodies regulating aviation, and by the 1950s, there had, at one point, been seventy-five different interagency groups with some responsibility in the field. S. Rep. No. 85-1811, at 6 (1958). To resolve this problem, Congress enacted the 1958 Federal Aviation Act, Pub. L. No. 85-726, 72 Stat. 731, to consolidate regulatory authority in a single entity: the Federal Aviation Administration (" FAA" ). The Federal Aviation Act adopted verbatim from the Civil Aeronautics Act the statutory framework for the promulgation of minimum standards for design safety and the process for the issuance of certificates that indicated compliance with those regulations.1

Pursuant to the statutory framework established in the Civil Aeronautics Act and adopted by the Federal Aviation Act, aircraft engine manufacturers must obtain from the FAA (1) a type certificate, which certifies that a new design for an aircraft or aircraft part performs properly and meets the safety standards defined in the aviation regulations, 49 U.S.C. § 44704(a); 14 C.F.R. § 21.31; and (2) a production certificate, which certifies that a duplicate part produced for a particular plane will conform to the design in the type certificate, 49 U.S.C. § 44704(c); 14 C.F.R. § 21.137. Before a new aircraft may legally fly, it must also receive (3) an airworthiness certificate, which certifies that the plane and its component parts conform to its type certificate and are in condition for safe operation. 49 U.S.C. § § 44704(d), 44711(a)(1).

The FAA issues a type certificate when it has determined that a product " is properly designed and manufactured, performs properly, and meets the regulations and minimum standards prescribed under [49 U.S.C. § ] 44701(a)." 49 U.S.C. § 44704(a)(1); see also 14 C.F.R. § 21.21. A type certificate includes the type design, which outlines the detailed specifications, dimensions, and materials used for a given product; the product's operating limitations; a " certificate data sheet," which denotes the conditions and limitations necessary to meet airworthiness requirements; and any other conditions or limitations prescribed under FAA regulations. See 14 C.F.R. § § 21.31, 21.41; FAA, Order 8110.4C, change 5, Type Certification, ch. 3-3(a) (2011). This certification process can be intensive and painstaking; for example, a commercial aircraft manufacturer seeking a new type certificate for a wide-body aircraft might submit 300,000 drawings, 2,000 engineering reports, and 200 other reports in addition to completing approximately 80 ground tests and 1,600 hours of flight tests. See United States v. S.A. Empresa de Viacao Aerea Rio Grandense (Varig Airlines), 467 U.S. 797, 805 n.7, 104 S.Ct. 2755, 81 L.Ed.2d 660 (1984). A type certificate remains in effect " until surrendered, suspended, revoked, or a termination date is otherwise established by the FAA." 14 C.F.R. § 21.51. A manufacturer may make both " major" and " minor" changes to a type certificated design, 14 C.F.R. § 21.93, but must obtain the appropriate regulatory approval to do so, which for " major changes" requires the issuance of an amended or supplemental type certificate by the FAA, see 49 U.S.C. § 44704(b); 14 C.F.R. § 21.97; FAA Order 8110.4C, change 1, Type Certification, ch. 4-1(a), 4-2 (2011), and for " minor changes" requires the manufacturer to comply with a pertinent " method acceptable to the FAA," 14 C.F.R. § 21.95.

B. Factual History

This case involves alleged manufacturing and design defects in a Textron Lycoming O-320-D2C engine (" the engine" ) manufactured in 1969 and installed " factory new" on a Cessna 172N aircraft (" the aircraft" ) in 1998. Lycoming holds both a type certificate and production certificate for the engine. The engine in the aircraft was...

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