Third Circuit Limits Federal Aviation Act Preemption for Product Liability Claims

In a departure from a string of cases supporting field preemption of state-law aviation product liability claims under certain circumstances by the Federal Aviation Act (FAAct), the Third Circuit recently held that the FAAct does not categorically preempt such claims. Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corp., et al. Case No. 14-4193. In doing so, the court significantly limited its own groundbreaking ruling in Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363 (3d Cir. 1999), in which it held that “the entire field of aviation safety is federally preempted.” As it backpedaled, the court explained that Abdullah applied only to operating an aircraft—not to the aircraft’s design or manufacture.

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