The Wolk Law Firm Media & News
Bradley Stoll responsible for important precendent from the US Court of Appeals
The Wolk Law Firm creates important Third Circuit precedent interpreting the General Aviation Revitalization Act in favor of accident victims.
PHILADELPHIA - (07.25.2006) Bradley Stoll, one of the lawyers of The Wolk Law Firm is responsible for important recent precedent from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the case of Robinson v. Hartzell Propeller Inc., No. 04-3379, ___ F.3d ___, 2006 WL 1843284 (3rd Cir. July 6, 2006)
In Robinson, the plaintiffs were seriously injured in the crash of a Mooney aircraft when the propeller separated causing loss of power and requiring an emergency landing in a field.The propeller was more than 18 years old from the date it was first delivered to the owner of the aircraft so Hartzell argued it was entitled not to stand trial because the GARA statute precludes lawsuits against aircraft component manufacturers if the product is more than eighteen years old. Hartzell claimed that GARA afforded it a federal right to withstand trial.
An important exception to GARA is if the manufacturer has misrepresented to the FAA anything that might have affected that federal agencyís willingness to either certify the propeller or relates to the continuing airworthiness of it, the manufacturer may still be liable regardless of the propellerís age.
The Wolk Law Firm alleged facts and the discovery disclosed facts sufficient for the court below to deny Hartzellís motion for Summary judgment, in other words Hartzell had to go to trial.
Hartzell appealed the lower courtís order denying summary judgment claiming it was a collateral order entitling it to immediate review on the merits since GARA allegedly created a right to withstand trial as set forth by the Ninth Circuit in Estate of Kennedy v. Bell Helicopter Textron, 283 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir. 2002).
The Third Circuit disagreed not only with Hartzell but also with the Ninth Circuit Court. The Third Circuit accepted the arguments advanced by Bradley Stoll concluding that GARA is only a defense to liability and not a right to withstand trial and did not intend to confer an immediate appellate review on the merits. Therefore, once summary judgment was denied by the trial court, a trial on the merits was the next step.
The Third Circuit also pointed out that in the Robinson case there was another good reason to deny the appeal; there were a number of disputed facts that in addition to justifying the denial of summary judgment more than substantiated its decision not to address the merits that only a trial could decide.
The Robinson decision is an important milestone in limiting industryís efforts to keep deserving victims of injuries and death from defective aviation components from having a trial on the merits. It is a bold stroke in favor of justice, a strong vote for the jury system guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and a recognition that misrepresentation to aviation certifying authorities will strip a manufacturer of the liability limitations afforded by a unfair statute they got Congress to pass for their protection.
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