Invoking the “Government Contractor Defense” Resulted in Summary Judgment in Favor of Military Aircraft Manufacturer
Where we started: Our client was sued by the family of a U.S. Marine killed in the crash of a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft during a training exercise in Hawaii. The Osprey is a multi-mission military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing and short takeoff and landing capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise of a conventional turboprop aircraft. The plaintiff asserted claims that the crash was caused by a deficiency in the Osprey’s design.
Our strategy – plus more: Manufacturers of military aircraft – defense contractors – are exempted from liability for claims arising from use of the aircraft provided (1) the manufacturer can show that the U.S. government approved reasonably precise specifications for the manufacture, (2) the aircraft conformed to those specifications, and (3) the contractor warned the government about any dangers in the use of the product which were known to the contractor but not to the government. This exemption from liability is commonly referred to as the “government contractor defense.” Understanding the exigency for early claim resolution, we worked closely with other manufacturing interests to move the case into a posture for dispositive motion practice.
Upshot: The McGlinchey team successfully obtained summary judgment for its client, and all claims were dismissed based on the government contractor defense. On appeal, the U.S. Ninth Circuit upheld summary judgment.