The duty of care is the first element to needs to be proven to proceed with an negligence action. The plaintiff should be able to establish a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached.
In the aerospace industry, as in every other industry, manufacturers have a duty of care to prevent injury or damage arising as the result of a fault or failure of their products. This applies to the manufacturers or distributors of any product that can be applied for use in the aerospace industry, including:
- Air navigation equipment;
- Airport ground equipment;
- Ancillary equipment;
- Major components; and
An individual who without fault on his/her part sustains an injury caused by a defect in the design, composition, or manufacture of a product rendering it unreasonably dangerous to normal use, may recover from the product’s manufacturer without proof of negligence[i].
However, the duty of care owing by a manufacturer of aircraft or aircraft equipment is a duty of ordinary and reasonable care[ii].
Reasonable care consists among other things of conducting such inspections and tests during the course of manufacture and after the product is completed as the manufacturer should recognize as reasonably necessary to secure the production of a safe product[iii].
The manufacturer is bound to use ordinary and customary methods to detect defects from which something more than trivial danger could be foreseen[iv].
Before introducing a new type of aircraft, a manufacturer must first obtain from the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) a certificate signifying that the basic design of the aircraft meets the minimum criteria specified in the safety regulations promulgated by the FAA[v].
A broad rule of liability applicable to a manufacturer of any chattel, whether it is a component part or an assembled entity, is that if the manufacturer is negligent in circumstances pointing to an unreasonable risk of serious bodily injury to anyone, liability will follow[vi].
A manufacturer that buys and installs in its product components fabricated by another is subject to the same liability as though it were the manufacturer of the component. The manufacturer is thus chargeable with the duty to exercise reasonable care in the design and construction of the component as well as in the testing and inspecting of the particular component which is installed in its manufactured product[vii].
In order to establish a manufacturer’s liability under a state statute, a claimant must show damage that was proximately caused by a characteristic of an unreasonably dangerous product during a reasonably anticipated use of that product[viii].
[i] Winans v. Rockwell Int’l Corp., 705 F.2d 1449 (5th Cir. La. 1983).
[ii] Livesley v. Continental Motors Corp., 331 Mich. 434, 446 (Mich. 1951).
[iii] Smith v. Peerless Glass Co., 259 N.Y. 292 (N.Y. 1932).
[v] United States v. S. A. Empresa De Viacao Aerea Rio Grandense (varig Airlines), 467 U.S. 797 (U.S. 1984).
[vi] Smith v. Peerless Glass Co., 259 N.Y. 292 (N.Y. 1932)
[vii] Boeing Airplane Co. v. Brown, 291 F.2d 310 (9th Cir. Wash. 1961).
[viii] Pickett v. RTS Helicopter, 128 F.3d 925 (5th Cir. La. 1997).