Aircraft Design and Manufacturing Defects
Holding Aircraft Manufacturers Accountable for Crashes
It is the responsibility of an aircraft manufacturer – and the maker
of each and every aircraft part – to ensure that an airplane is
made without any
design or manufacturing defects. The manufacturer is responsible for aircraft manufacturing or design
defects if the defect causes harm to others.
Wisner Baum has handled many product liability cases in the nearly half-century
we have been in business. In many cases, we have found that the aircraft
can be built strictly according to manufacturer specifications and maintained
according to required guidelines – and still a devastating crash
occurs because of core aircraft design or manufacturing defects. With
decades of handling
aviation accident litigation, we have found that if there are defects in the manufacturing or design
of the aircraft or a part of it, it may be doomed (along with everyone
aboard) no matter how experienced the pilot or how careful the aircraft owner.
Do you believe that aircraft design and manufacturing defects may have
contributed to your plane accident injuries or the loss of a loved one? Call Wisner Baumtoday at
(855) 948-5098 or
contact us online.
What is an Aviation Design Defect?
Defective design is when an aircraft or a component part is manufactured
correctly but something about the design makes the aircraft or component
part unreasonably dangerous. A design defect often affects an entire product
line, not just a single product. The Boeing 737 MAX aircraft is a good
example of a design defect.
Per a congressional report, Boeing’s development of the MAX “was marred by technical
design failures,” which contributed to the crashes of
Lion Air Flight 610 and
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
What is an Aviation Manufacturing Defect?
An aviation manufacturing defect is when an aircraft or one of its components
is manufactured differently than its original design or specifications
and becomes unreasonably dangerous. Manufacturing defects can affect an
entire line of products or a single product. For instance, a critical
part might not be machined exactly to design specifications and be installed
on the aircraft. If the part is not a perfect fit, as required by the
plans and specifications, and it fails and causes a crash, the manufacturer
is responsible even if it did everything it was required to do to try
to make the part correctly. This concept is called “strict liability.”
Two other important components in aircraft design and manufacturing defect
cases: maintenance and crashworthiness. Below, we’ll discuss these
two factors in greater detail.
Aircraft Maintenance Negligence
While an aircraft design defect or manufacturing defect can easily lead
to a crash, improper maintenance of the aircraft can be just as deadly.
Sometimes the plane or helicopter and all of its components are well-crafted
and free of defect, but due to faulty maintenance the plane or parts fail
to work as expected. A recent trend in outsourcing and hiring low-cost
aircraft maintenance providers who may not necessarily be properly trained
or experienced in servicing certain types of aircraft has made aircraft
maintenance negligence a very real safety issue that has contributed to
Not every crash should cause severe injury or death. No product liability
investigation is complete until answers are found to this question: How
did the people on board the aircraft actually suffer their injuries? In
many cases the forces of the crash alone were not — or should not
have been — sufficient to cause the injuries suffered. Thorough
investigation may well lead to the conclusion that the crash itself was
survivable, but design or manufacturing defects were the reason that tragedy
was the outcome.
Case Study: Griffith Park Aircraft Defect Case
The following example is one in which Wisner Baum was responsible for an
important clarification of law, improving aviation safety in the process.
After a car crash in Los Angeles caused a child to suffer serious injuries,
she was air-lifted to Children’s Hospital. Mid-flight, the tail
rotor yoke (which attaches the tail to the aircraft) failed. The aircraft
broke in two and crashed into Griffith Park below — killing the
child, two rescue firefighters and the firefighter helicopter operator.
The widows of the three firefighters hired our firm. After we filed their
aircraft design defect lawsuits, defense attorneys for the helicopter
manufacturer, Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., tried to get our cases dismissed
based on the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, a federal law
that bars plaintiffs from suing general aviation manufacturers for issues
with parts more than 18 years old. The trial judge dismissed our cases.
We appealed. We won that appeal and proceeded to prepare the cases for trial.
In summary, the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles concluded
that the law did not apply to Bell in this case. The judge wrote that
there was evidence Bell withheld information from the Federal Aviation
Administration “about five military aircraft accidents Bell knew
were caused by failure of identical tail rotor yokes,” which caused
the Griffith Park accident.
We argued that Bell Textron was required to report all failures of parts
used interchangeably in civil and military aircraft. When Bell allegedly
failed to do so, they were no longer protected by the General Aviation
Revitalization Act of 1994. After winning the appeal, our attorney Paul
Hedlund noted that “They have been hiding behind this military exemption
for as long as I can remember. It was time somebody called them on it.”
The aviation accident attorneys at Wisner Baum alleged and proved during
the subsequent trial, that the tail rotor yoke suffered a fatigue failure
due to defective aircraft design. It was determined that a significant
gust of wind could cause the tail rotor assembly to bend excessively,
even when sitting on the tarmac, thus weakening the yoke by causing a
fatigue crack in it. Although this problem could easily be fixed, the
design of the aircraft lacked any method or system to detect the crack
when it was very tiny, but nonetheless lethal to the next flight.
Contact us for a free initial consultation if you or a loved one has been hurt in an aviation accident involving
an aircraft design defect or manufacturing defect. Our lawyers handle
both domestic and international product liability cases.