Aviation product liability lawsuits involve claims against general aviation manufacturers for aircraft defects and disasters. The key issue in most of these suits is whether the aircraft accident was pilot-caused, machine-caused, or a combination. Most aircraft accidents are deemed pilot-caused. In these lawsuits, the question will be whether the manufacturers should share any blame and liability with the pilots for airplane crashes.

When Will an Aviation Product Be Deemed Defective?

Under strict liability, a manufacturer or seller can be sued even if the victim cannot prove that it was negligent. As long as a victim can show that a defect in the product was a cause of his injuries, most states will allow the victim to recover: 

  • In about half the states, manufacturers may be held strictly liable if the product is "unreasonably dangerous" for use by an ordinary consumer
  • A growing majority of states hold that a manufacturer is strictly liable if the product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect
  • Some states may use a ¿risk-benefit¿ test in deciding whether the risk associated with the product design outweighs its benefits

How is Fault Determined?

Comparative fault is a common issue that arises in air crash liability lawsuits. In these cases, it is important to determine the relative fault of the operator (pilot) and the manufacturer (of the machinery). In a majority of courts, the jury determines the percentage of liability attributable to each defendant. If the jury finds that both the operator and manufacturer are culpable, they will assign a percentage of fault to each.

Are There Any Possible Defenses?

There are a number of possible defenses to aviation product liability, but many fail. Some defenses include: 

  • FAA Certification: Even if a manufacturer conforms to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, it may still be held liable under state product liability laws.
  • Assumption of the Risk: Victims can be found to have assumed the risk only if the victim clearly understood the risk of using the product, notwithstanding the defect. If the defect is latent and the victim cannot appreciate the danger, the manufacturer cannot argue that the victim assumed the risk. 
  • Adequate Warnings: A manufacturer can avoid liability by giving sufficient warning of the risks to the passenger.
  • Modification or Alteration of a Product: If there is proof that someone altered or modified the product after leaving the hands of the manufacturer and that alteration was the cause of the accident, the manufacturer may avoid liability.

Do I Need an Attorney to Make a Claim for Aviation Product Liability?

An experienced products liability lawyer can help you determine whether you have a claim. If you are an aircraft operator, a products liability lawyer can help you build up your case. If you are a manufacturer, a lawyer can help you prepare a strong defense.