Aviation

Smooth Takeoff


Blank Rome’s aviation practice is nationally known. We vigorously defend major airlines, charter companies, manufacturers, airports, repair/service facilities, Fixed Based Operators and a variety of other aviation entities against a wide variety of product liability, tort and employment suits; including, for example, toxic tort and various environmental disputes, matters arising from aviation disasters, and lawsuits arising from alleged defects in products and equipment. Blank Rome has been retained to defend airlines in discrete suits, to defend large companies, to provide litigation support in complex, multidistrict litigation and class-action lawsuits, and to serve as national counsel in the defense of a multitude of cases. We also provide custom tailored analysis, training and education to our clients upon request.

Because our team includes experienced pilots, our clients reap the benefits from our sophisticated knowledge of aeronautical, navigational and operational systems. Our attorneys have used their first-hand knowledge to successfully represent domestic and international aviation clients in matters involving:

Major Air Disasters

  • Representation of Mesa Airlines operating US Airways Express Flight 5481 in numerous wrongful death lawsuits following the January 8, 2003 tragedy in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Representation of the Massachusetts Port Authority with regard to its operations of Logan International Airport in Boston concerning the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
  • Representation of United Airlines as local counsel for the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland lawsuits stemming from the tragedy of United 232 in Sioux City.
  • Currently representing alleged manufacturer of product on board Air France Flight 447 in multidistrict litigation arising from the June 1, 2009 tragedy.

Tort/Contract Claims

  • Negligence and product liability suits arising out of accidents involving commercial and general aviation aircraft, ground equipment and baggage conveyor systems.
  • Tort claims involving FBO’s, repair and service facilities, and ground services providers.
  • Representation of airlines, contractors and construction managers in lawsuits arising out of design and construction of airport facilities and baggage conveyor systems.
  • Injuries related to emergency evacuations.
  • Defense of DVT lawsuits.
  • Issues arising out of Air Carrier Access Act compliance, including wheelchair access, passenger assistance and treatment of disabled passengers.
  • Airlines product liability responsibility based upon interaction with manufacturers/designers for ground equipment and baggage conveyor systems.
  • Overhead bin litigation.
  • Airline/TSA interaction, including impact of airline liability for alleged security and equipment modification accidents.
  • Accidents involving all types of aircraft, ground services and airport equipment, including belt loaders, baggage carts and tugs, fuel trucks, deicing equipment, conveyor systems, and motorized vehicle collisions.
  • Airport landlord and tenant exposures.
  • Tort claims involving Aviation Boards and/or Aviation Commissioners, with associated governmental immunity issues.
  • “Air rage” lawsuits, disruptive passengers and intoxicated passengers.
  • Warsaw Convention issues including jurisdiction, forum, applicability, treaty interpretation and damages.
  • Airline contracts and relationships with regional carriers and third party vendors.
  • In-flight service issues such as hot beverage spills, serving cart upsets, and allegations of salmonella or other food contamination.
  • Lawsuits involving flight cancellation/delay or “denied boarding” allegations.
  • Indemnification/defense of City of Philadelphia pursuant to Philadelphia Airport lease(s) regarding negligence and contract claims.

Federal Aviation Act/Federal Preemption

  • Involving safety and security issues (field preemption)
  • Rates, routes or services preemption (consumer protection, deceptive trade practices, economic impact issues)
  • Overhead compartments; FAA regulations regarding flight crew duties and operation of flights; interference with flight crew in performance of their duties, etc.

Security Screening Issues—Treatment of Passengers and Flight Crew Members

  • Invasion of privacy, defamation and false imprisonment claims.
  • Interaction of tort, labor law and workers’ compensation issues.
  • Criminal prosecution and defense.
  • Passenger discrimination claims

Governmental, Investigative and Regulatory Requests

  • Representation of airline interests regarding subpoenas and deposition requests from government entities and private litigants in civil actions and government proceedings; expert inspections of equipment and facilities.

Baggage Claims

  • Blank Rome’s litigators handle matters enforcing baggage liability limitations and tariffs. Although relatively small in value, these tend to be hotly contested.

Employee Related Litigation

  • Regularly represent airlines in employment discrimination claims by their own employees, both before civil courts and regulatory tribunals such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We represent the airline and its employees when being investigated by governmental entities. We have also represented individual employees who have been accused of crimes by fellow employees or who have been subpoenaed as witnesses in criminal matters.
  • Discrimination charges and lawsuits based on age, race, and ethnic origin; sexual harassment and other claims.
  • Wage and hour issues, including skycap “tipping” litigation.
  • ERISA issues and challenges.
  • Class action defense.
  • Labor discussions/union negotiations.
  • Administrative appeals.

Construction Related Litigation

  • Defense of claims by contractors and City of Philadelphia airline employees and third parties in connection with alleged additional work and/or increased costs of airport construction, construction defects, and post-construction liability claims.
  • Representation of airlines against architect/engineer, contractors and airport with respect to negligence, breach of contract and personal injury claims arising out of airport/airline construction projects.
  • Designated law firm to represent a main airline and all of its subcontractors in the owner controlled insurance program related to the $500 million Philadelphia Airport International Terminal project. This has resulted in defense of numerous construction related personal injury claims as well as construction disputes, contractual disputes, and professional liability disputes.

Product Liability Litigation

Blank Rome also regularly represents numerous aviation product manufacturers in a variety of litigation including general aviation accidents/incidents and mass disasters. Representative engagements include:

  • Obtained a defense verdict following a six week jury trial for the manufacturer of a component blamed for the crash of a military Osprey aircraft resulting in seven fatalities.
  • Successfully defended manufacturers of engines, engine components, autopilots, avionics, transponders, emergency locator transmitters, brakes, tires and virtually every other type of component manufacturer on air transport, general aviation and military aircraft, as well as ground equipment.
  • Obtained a defense verdict in favor of autopilot manufacturer blamed for triple fatality crash of private aircraft causing extensive ground injuries and massive property damage.

Representative clients include: Garmin, Honeywell, General Transervice, t/a Rampmaster, Wollard Airport Equipment Company, S-Tec, Teledyne Continental Motors, and Pratt and Whitney.

Airline/Airport Relations

  • Airline-airport property rights issues under leases, including repair/maintenance responsibilities, indemnification obligations, and associated governmental or tort claims act immunity defenses.
  • Subrogation claims for property/equipment.
  • Lobbying and strategic communications services available through Blank Rome Government Relations LLC.

Airport Litigation

Blank Rome regularly represents airports, airport authorities and airport boards with regard to liability claims, regulatory issues and related matters. Representative engagements include:

  • Superfund, CERCLA and other environmental litigation.
  • Insurance coverage disputes.
  • Defense of mass tort claims due to environmental spillage, toxic fumes and other causes.
  • Defense of airports in response to premises liability.
  • Construction and contractual bidding claims.
  • Zoning, nuisance, noise and trespass claims.
  • Regulatory compliance.

Representative clients include: Philadelphia International Airport, MASSPORT, Aeroports de Paris, Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority and South Jersey Transportation Authority.

Bankruptcy

  • Counsel to a national airline, a Chapter 11 debtor and debtor-in-possession, in a case where the debtors liquidation plan was confirmed and where substantial litigation resulted in the creation of a cash fund in excess of $70 million. We also litigated to retain our clients rights to certain aircraft later sold for more than $100 million.
  • Representation of creditors’ committees in major airline reorganizations and dissolutions.
  • Representation of airlines undergoing debt restructurings, reorganizations and liquidation in bankruptcy.
  • Representation of official committees of unsecured creditors of airlines in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations.
  • Representation of aircraft and aircraft equipment lessors in airline bankruptcy cases and out-of-court transactions.

Financing and Leasing

  • Representation of owners and operators of aircraft ranging from a Cessna 172 to a Gulfstream IV with regard to leases, liens, loan documentation and related operational and maintenance agreements.
  • Representation of an equipment leasing subsidiary of a major bank in the transfer of equity interests in approximately 50 aircraft as part of internal restructures, including helicopters, general aviation jets, and commercial jetliners.
  • Representation of a monoline insurance company in connection with the securitization of the airline fleet of a U.S. airline carrier, the assets of an international company engaged in the development, delivery and support of aerospace systems and the repackaging of medium term notes issued in connection with the securitization of the airline fleet of a U.S. airline carrier operating under the protection of U.S. bankruptcy laws.
  • Representation of major airlines, aircraft and component manufacturers for liability claims, contract negotiation, financial instruments, debtor and creditor positions.

Patent/Trademark

  • Handled patent work for revolutionary ground servicing equipment.

Regulatory

  • Representation of a major manufacturer of aircraft engines defending a challenge to the certification of its most commonly used engine.
  • Representation of foreign carriers in their dealings with the FAA, TSA, Customs and State Department.

Insurance Coverage

  • Representation of an insurance company that successfully disclaimed coverage for the alleged theft of an airplane while in flight by the prospective purchaser.
  • Representation of an international insurance carrier whose client, an air ambulance service, was sued for wrongful death when delayed by weather conditions.
  • Obtained coverage for an air taxi operator in a multiple fatality accident where coverage was to be provided by the municipality.
  • Successfully tendered the defense of major airlines to subcontractors, security screening companies and others as appropriate.
  • Representation of an insurance carrier in coverage dispute for policies totaling $1 billion for chemical exposure claims allegedly occurring during the manufacture of the Stealth bomber.
  • Representation of an aviation insurer regarding the conflicting areas of coverage for a fixed-base operator between its aircraft and airport policies.
  • Representation of aviation insurers in numerous claims involving pilot warranty clauses, breach of warranty provisions and other areas of limitation.
  • Drafting and litigating insurance, indemnification, and duty to defend clauses in leases and other contracts.


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