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PA District Court Rules On Plaintiff’s Defective Product Claims

July 18, 2012

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<p style="text-align: left;" align="center">In <em>Sikkelee v. Precision Airmotive Corporation et al</em>, an aircraft accident at the Transylvania County Airport in Brevard, North Carolina resulted in the death of David Sikkelee. The Plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by a faulty carburetor and sued multiple parties involved in the manufacturing of the plane’s engine. Among the defendants was Lycoming Engines, the original engine manufacturer and division of industry giant AVCO Corporation. The plaintiff asserted negligence and strict liability claims to which Lycoming moved for summary judgment.</p>
Judge John Jones of the Middle District of Pennsylvania affirmed in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion.  First, the court held Lycoming was a <em>de facto</em> manufacturer of the allegedly defective engine despite the fact the engine was subsequently modified (the installation of the faulty carburetor) by a separate company after it left Lycoming’s control.  The court reasoned that even though Lycoming did not physically modify the engine, Lycoming was in exclusive control of the design and manufacture of the replacement component parts that were installed in the engine. Thus, this would subject Lycoming to potential products liability under PA law, and plaintiff’s claims should not be dismissed.
Additionally, the court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s negligence claims based, <em>inter alia</em>, on the following.  Lycoming moved for summary judgment contending that the plaintiff failed to submit evidence that the defendant breached the applicable standard of care, thus, plaintiff’s negligence claims could not stand.  The court had previously held that federal standards of care promulgated by the FAA apply in aviation cases such as this one and can be utilized by the plaintiff to show breach of duty.  Since the plaintiff had submitted evidence of the breach of these federal standards, the court would not dismiss plaintiff’s negligence claims.
Thanks to Colleen Hayes for her contribution to this post.
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