Florida Military Aviation Accident Attorneys
Military aviation accidents raise a legion of complex litigation issues. Depending on where the accident occurred, the nature of employment of those involved in the accident and the cause of the accident, there may be a means to pursue liability or a complete bar from lawsuit. Podhurst Orseck’s experienced legal team has decades of experience with military aviation issues. At Podhurst Orseck, we are experienced in sorting through the complexities that such accidents present and providing answers and options quickly.
Military aviation accidents normally involve military personnel aboard military aircraft. The United States Supreme Court in United States v. Feres, 340 U.S. 135 (1950), held that the United States Government is generally not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries sustained by active duty service members from others, even if the others – military mechanics, pilots, air traffic controllers or mechanics – were guilty of gross negligence. The Feres Doctrine, as this maxim is known, also precludes family members of service members who were injured or killed from filing wrongful death or loss of consortium actions. It does not generally preclude suits where a service member’s civilian family member has been harmed by such negligence. While controversial, the Feres Doctrine, remains the law.
The Feres Doctrine does not bar injured service members or their families from bringing suit against non-governmental parties, such as contractors, who may have contributed to a military aircraft accident. For example, aircraft design defects which injure an aircraft crewmember may create liability on behalf of the manufacturer.
The Government Contractor Defense
Government contractors have asserted a number of defenses against such claims with varying degrees of success. The United States Supreme Court established the framework for one such defense in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988), wherein it identified a, “uniquely federal interest… ,” in the procurement of military equipment. To successfully invoke the defense, and the immunity afforded under it, a contractor must show: (1) the United States approved reasonably precise specifications; (2) the equipment conformed to those specifications; and (3) the supplier warned the United States about the dangers in the use of the equipment that were known to the supplier but not to the United States.
The State Secrets Privilege
When properly invoked, this privilege allows the United States to withhold information from discovery if the release would compromise national security or foreign policy. This is true even when the United States is not a named party in the lawsuit.
The Political Question Doctrine
This defense can arise in a governmental product liability case, but does not deal directly with the product. Rather, it focuses on how the government used the product. In the military context, the doctrine may be used as a bar because it frames the action as a review of the appropriateness of the government’s use of the product at the time of the injury. Military decisions are generally non-reviewable Executive Branch decisions. Since the nature of the use of a product is an element in establishing product liability, and adjudicating on the appropriateness of the use of that product is barred by the doctrine, it can restrict a court from reaching a conclusion on causation in a claim. This in turn, eliminates an essential element of the case, effectively precluding the claim.
Our firm brings over four decades of aviation litigation experience to bear to defend and protect the rights of our clients.