Florida Aviation Product Liability Lawyers

In aviation, the design and function of each system and component part is critical.  More than most any other vehicle design area, aviation manufacturers strive to make the most useful product while achieving a weight savings.  The less a component weighs, generally the more the airframe can carry, which is the focus of the aviation consumer.  While composite materials make for lighter and stronger aviation products, they employ new technologies.  As new technologies are placed into real-world applications, product liability issues arise.

Product liability is generally encompassed by three types of liability theories:

  1. design defects;
  2. manufacturing defects, and;
  3. defects in marketing (which includes failure to provide adequate warnings).

Many states enforce products liability under a strict liability standard.  Strict liability does not consider the negligence of the manufacturer.  Instead, if the product is legally deemed to be defective, the manufacturer is liable and all parties in the distribution chain of the product are potentially liable.  These parties include point of sale merchants, distributers, wholesalers and product manufacturers.

General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, also known as “GARA,” was passed by Congress as a measure to shield manufacturers of aircraft carrying fewer than 20 persons (and such aircraft component parts) from liability for most accidents involving aircraft and parts 18 years old or older at the time of the accident.  President Clinton signed GARA into law in August 1994.

GARA’s statute of repose sets forth:

(a) In general – Except as provided in subsection (b), no civil action for damages for death or injury to persons or damage to property arising out of an accident involving a general aviation aircraft may be brought against the manufacturer of any new component, system, subassembly, or other part of the aircraft, in its capacity as manufacturer if the accident occurred –

(1) after the applicable limitation period beginning on –

(A) the date of delivery of the aircraft to its first purchaser or lessee, if delivered  directly from the manufacturer; or

(B) the date of first delivery of the aircraft to a person engaged in the business of selling or leasing such aircraft; or

(2) with respect to any new component, system, subassembly, or other part which replaced another component, system, subassembly, or other part originally in, or which was added to, the aircraft, and which is alleged to have caused such death, injury or damage, after the applicable limitation period beginning on the date of completion of the replacement or addition.

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-298, 108 Stat. 1552, reprinted in 49 U.S.C.S. § 40101, note.

GARA has afforded significant protection to the manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and component parts, but it has not completely shielded these entities from liability.  GARA’s statute of repose carries four primary exceptions: the fraud exception, the medical emergency exception, the “not aboard the aircraft” exception and the written warranty exception.

The attorneys at Podhurst Orseck have successfully handled a variety of general aviation mishaps and product liability cases involving GARA.  We are familiar with the law and how the exceptions are applied and regularly assist clients in this area of the law.