Hedrick addresses Federal Preemption Issues At Pacific Northwest Aviation Law Seminar

ALG attorney Robert Hedrick was invited to give a presentation at the 42nd Annual Pacific Northwest Aviation Law and Insurance Seminar, held in downtown Seattle October 9-11. His topic was “Engines, Regulations and Preemption: Spontaneous Combustion For Judges and Juries”. During his 50 minute presentation, Hedrick focused on how the federal aviation regulations do not squarely fit into state law product liability standards. He noted that a string of cases recognizing federal preemption in aviation matters primarily involve regulation of human conduct such as flight crew warnings and pilot duties. Hedrick stated that for practical and policy considerations, those cases do not mandate application of federal standards of care in aviation product liability cases, especially claims involving manufacturing defects, because the regulations are far to general, and they do not contain specific manufacturing standards, or even design standards. “Thus, manufacturers and suppliers are hard pressed to argue that they are subject to conflicting standards of care, when a specific standard is absent from federal law. It’s a false conflict. By allowing general federal performance standards to control over specific state standards, it is virtually impossible for judges and juries to reconcile manufacturing defects with the federal regulatory scheme,” he said. “While 9th Circuit case law recognizes the dilemma, Washington state courts are not following the leading case of Martin v. Midwest Express, 555 F.3d 806 (9th Cir. 2009), especially when it comes to issues of failure to warn and that of unregulated suppliers”, Hedrick concluded.