Family members of two servicemembers who died in a fatal air crash that was caused by defective helicopter parts sued the manufacturers. The defendant manufacturers moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs’ state-law products liability claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Act, which, they argued, occupies the entire field of aviation safety. The district court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.
On appeal, Public Citizen filed an amicus brief explaining that products liability claims fall outside of the preemptive field of the Act and that the district court’s approach to preemption failed to follow Supreme Court precedent that engages in a careful analysis of the federal statute to determine whether a particular matter falls within or outside of a preempted field. In an opinion issued in November 2023, the Second Circuit agreed, holding that the Federal Aviation Act’s preempted field does not include military aircrafts like the one to which this suit pertained.