United States District Court, D. Connecticut
BRENDA JONES, AS CO-ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN DAVID HORTMAN, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
GOODRICH CORPORATION, ET AL., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE ISSUE OF IMPLIED FIELD
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action, plaintiffs assert claims of strict liability,
negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract, and
fraud, stemming from the fatal crash of an AH-6M
“Mission Enhanced Little Bird” helicopter on
August 8, 2011, at Fort Benning, Georgia. U.S. Army pilots,
John David Hortman and Steven Redd, were killed in the
to the Court’s request, the parties submitted briefs on
the issue of implied field preemption, that is when Congress
intends federal law to occupy the field to the exclusion of
state law. Although the parties disagree as to many of the
underlying technical aspects of the case, the issue of field
preemption is primarily one of law. Moreover, even when
resolving all ambiguities and drawing all reasonable
inferences in favor of plaintiffs, the Court finds, based on
Second Circuit precedent, that plaintiffs’ state law
claims are preempted. For the following reasons, summary
judgment will be granted in defendants’ favor.
helicopter was powered by a single Rolls-Royce Model 250
Series IV engine with a specific designation of 250-C30R/3M.
Plaintiffs submit that moments before the crash impact that
killed Captain Hortman and Chief Redd, the Full Authority
Digital Electronic Control (“FADEC”) computer
that controls all aspects of engine operation in their
helicopter experienced a “step count fault, ”
which caused a failure of the FADEC. A step count fault is
caused by, among other things, a faulty fuel metering valve
potentiometer (“MVP”), which is part of the
hydromechanical unit that physically meters fuel to the
combustion chamber. The fault caused the FADEC to enter a
fixed fuel mode where the pilot cannot alter the fuel flow
and power to the engine.
Army required both the baseline Mission Enhanced Little Bird
engine and all of the modifications, including modifications
to the FADEC, to be FAA certified. Any changes in equipment
that were required by the Army also required the Original
Equipment Manufacturers (“OEMs”) to obtain
additional FAA certification. Plaintiffs’ statement of
additional uncontested facts provides: “It is clear
that the FAA was the ‘Airworthiness Authority for the
C30R/3M engine.” [ECF No. 488, ¶ 27].
motion for summary judgment will be granted where there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and it is clear that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
"Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the
import of the evidence is summary judgment proper."
Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir.),
cert. denied, 502 U.S. 849 (1991).
burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of
any material factual issue genuinely in dispute. American
International Group, Inc. v. London American International
Corp., 664 F.2d 348, 351 (2d Cir. 1981). In determining
whether a genuine factual issue exists, the court must
resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences
against the moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of his case with respect to which he has
the burden of proof, then summary judgment is appropriate.
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If the nonmoving
party submits evidence which is "merely colorable,
" legally sufficient opposition to the motion for
summary judgment is not met. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
“When Congress intends federal law to ‘occupy the
field, ’ state law in that area is preempted.”
Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S.
363, 372 (2000). The Second Circuit has found clear
congressional intent to occupy the entire field of aviation
safety. Goodspeed Airport LLC v. East Haddam Inland
Wetlands & Watercourses Com’n, 634 F.3d
206, 210 (2d Cir. 2011). Indeed: “The United States
Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the
United States.” 49 U.S.C. § 40103(a)(1).
In Air Transport Ass'n of America, Inc. v. Cuomo
(ATA), 520 F.3d 218, 225 (2d Cir. 2008), this
Court observed that several of our sister circuits, and
several district courts within our own circuit, have
concluded that Congress intended to occupy the entire field
of air safety and thereby preempt state regulation of that
field. ATA examined evidence of Congressional
“intent to centralize air safety authority and the
comprehensiveness of [ ] regulations pursuant to that
authority, ” under both the Aviation Act and the ADA.
Goodspeed, 634 F.3d at 210.
concluding in Goodspeed that Congress intended to
occupy the entire field of air safety, the Second Circuit
recognized the second step of the implied preemption inquiry
as an analysis of whether the state laws at ...