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Los Angeles Law Blog

By John Kristensen of Kristensen Weisberg, LLP posted in Product Liability on Thursday, January 4, 2018.
The Bristol-Myers Squibb Outcome Is Changing Product Liability for Aircraft Parts

Before the Bristol-Myers Squibb Vs Superior Court case in 2017, it was generally accepted that courts could exercise personal jurisdiction in the form of general jurisdiction where a defendant was, in effect, at home in a particular jurisdiction, or specific jurisdiction where a lawsuit arose from or related to the defendant’s contacts with the forum. However, since the Supreme Court ruled that personal jurisdiction could not be exercised where claims against a drug manufacturer had been made by non-resident plaintiffs, this practice has seen some significant changes.

Although the Bristol-Myers Squibb case related to pharmaceuticals, there has already been some knock-on effect on aviation product liability cases.

The Effect of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Outcome

The Supreme Court’s 8-1 verdict that the Bristol-Myers Squibb lawsuit, where 594 of 600 plaintiffs were non-resident in California where the case was heard, involved a “loose and spurious form of general jurisdiction” occurred just a few months ago, but some after effects have already been seen in several more recent suits.

As aircraft components, parts, and the aircraft themselves are manufactured, bought and sold across numerous jurisdictions, the ruling may significantly change product liability in the industry. The recent product liability case of Hinkle Vs General Motors illustrates this clearly, seeing courts in two jurisdictions reject general jurisdiction claims. This case involved a Cirrus aircraft, which was manufactured in Minnesota, before being sold by Virginia salesperson to a pilot based in Florida. This aircraft later crashed in South Carolina.

As a result of the Bristol-Myers Squibb result, the court discounted the fact that Cirrus conducted business in Florida as being ineligible for general jurisdiction. Even though the aircraft was flown by a Florida pilot and injuries were caused to Florida residents, the crash occurring in South Carolina led to a ruling that Cirrus’ Florida-based activities were not the cause of the accident. As such, specific jurisdiction could not be applied. Similarly, a suit filed in South Carolina relating to the same accident found that, as the accident did not relate to Cirrus’ contacts with the forum, personal jurisdiction could not be exercised. As such, both Florida and South Carolina used the Bristol-Myers Squibb outcome to reject the Hinkle claims.

Product Liability in Los Angeles

While it has become evident that the Bristol-Myers Squibb outcome and the precedent it sets in terms of personal, general and specific jurisdiction, may well have an effect on future aircraft-related cases, choosing an excellent Los Angeles product liability attorney could greatly increase your chances of success.

If you, or a loved one, has been injured in any kind of aviation incident, it’s essential to seek expert legal advice immediately. Aviation product liability and accident law can be incredibly complex and, as such, should only be entrusted to an attorney with significant relevant experience. Kristensen Weisberg Los Angeles and Santa Monica based product liability attorneys are committed to identifying the true causes of aviation accidents and will work tirelessly to prove responsibility.

Whatever the cause of the aviation accident in question, product liability or otherwise, a Kristensen Weisberg attorney will seek the best possible outcome on your behalf. Call 310-984-1297 for your free consultation.