Federal Preemption of Claims Against Aircraft Owners, Lessors, and Secured Parties: A Matter of Control or Location?
Aviation Partner Marc Antonecchia authored an article in The Air & Space Lawyer titled "Federal Preemption of Claims Against Aircraft Owners, Lessors, and Secured Parties: A Matter of Control or Location?"
The key question that faces a court when adjudicating a claim against an aircraft lessor is whether a state law that permits a vicarious liability claim is preempted by a federal statute that protects aircraft lessors from personal injury, wrongful death and property damage claims. Most recently, the Florida Supreme Court, in the case of Vreeland v. Ferrer, found that the federal law limiting the liability of aircraft owners and lessors in the event of an accident applies to claims relating to the death and injury of persons on the ground, but not to those on board an aircraft.
This article reviews the language and legislative history of the federal statute and concludes that such decisions misconstrue the statute’s intent, which is to facilitate the financing of aircraft by protecting aircraft lessors not in possession or control of the aircraft from liability for damages. The ambiguity created by these decisions strongly suggests lessors should seek to protect their interests with indemnity and insurance arrangements.