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Katzman Lampert Successfully Litigates Cases Implicating Gara

Nov 18, 2014 | Cases

Katzman Lampert was retained by the wife of a pilot killed in the crash of a twin engine Cessna 421B aircraft that had been manufactured over twenty years before the crash. Due to the aircraft’s age, Cessna argued that the claims were barred by the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA). Our attorneys and experts conducted extensive research and analysis, and found documents and information supporting allegations that Cessna had knowingly misrepresented information to/from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during type certification which was an alleged causal factor in the crash. Pursuant to GARA, such conduct on behalf of a defendant aircraft manufacturer opens the door for plaintiffs who would normally be barred by the statute. On appeal, the court found merit to KL&M’s position and decided that the question of whether Cessna had knowingly misrepresented information to/from the FAA was a question of fact for the jury. See Hinkle v. The Cessna Aircraft Co., 2004 WL 2413768 (Mich. App. Oct. 2004).

In the seminal GARA case litigated by KL&M, Rickert v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., 929 F. Supp. 380 (D. Wyo. 1996), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries moved for summary judgment based upon GARA. Discovery was allowed in Rickert on issues related to the certification and safety of the MU-2B aircraft with regard to flight into known icing conditions. The court ended up reversing itself based upon that discovery. The Court refused to rule on a conflicting factual issue as to alleged knowing misrepresentations made to the FAA during the certification process, leaving the issue for the jury. Although the court misconstrued the degrees of scienter contained within GARA, it properly held that two affidavits from ex-employees indicating that certain information pertaining to an icing problem in the MU-2B aircraft at issue were sufficient to meet GARA’s requirements.

Some otherKatzman Lampert decisions and orders include: Wright v. Bond Air, Ltd., 930 F. Supp. 300 (E.D. Mich. 1996) (GARA did not preempt state product liability or negligence law; GARA merely serves a “gatekeeping function” for state law claims and did not create a body of federal law; regarding the re-tolling provision of GARA, the court noted that “[g]eneral aviation aircraft [are] rebuilt on a periodic basis. Over the lifespan of an airplane, its major component parts will be replaced. Each time this occurs, the statutory time period begins again for that component part, subjecting the component part manufacturer to liability in the event of an accident.”); Wright v. Bond Air, Ltd. et al., Case no. 96-519720, Opinion and Order dated December 16, 1996, of Judge Edward Sosnick, Oakland County Circuit Court, State of Michigan (denying a motion to dismiss under GARA or, alternatively, for a more definite statement, indicating that discovery had just begun and that the complaint adequately pled misrepresentation and concealment under GARA-that Cessna submitted to the FAA a series of reports which it knew did not accurately reflect the flight handling qualities and characteristics and vacuum air delivery system, and that Cessna had made misrepresentations to the FAA); May 17, 1999, Order of Judge Patrick Taggart in Schaller et al. v. The Cessna Aircraft Co., Case no. 99 CV 141, Circuit Branch 1 for Sauk County, State of Wisconsin (providing that discovery be allowed as to GARA issues, after which dispositive motions relating to GARA be completed). Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., 07-CV-886, 2011 WL 1344635, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 8, 2011) (“We need not, at this juncture, evaluate whether Plaintiff has specifically pleaded the knowing-misrepresentation exception to GARA, though a question may eventually be raised as to whether she has proven it. Based upon the face of the Amended Complaint, GARA’s statute of repose does not apply to the subject carburetor. Plaintiff alleges that a ‘factory new Lycoming engine’ was installed on the subject aircraft in December 1998, and that the aircraft was restored to a factory new or new condition in 2004. The subject carburetor was, allegedly, installed at that time. (Doc. 160 ¶¶ 8–10.) Thus, based upon the allegations of the Amended Complaint, the component part at issue had been in service for less than eighteen years, and thus suit is not barred by GARA. Should the facts, eventually, indicate otherwise, the Court will address whether Plaintiff can plead or prove the knowing-misrepresentation exception in future motions practice.”)

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