Cases & Deals

Parker Hannifin wins Ninth Circuit dismissal of wrongful death claims involving single-engine plane crash

Client(s) Parker Hannifin Corporation

Wrongful death claims were filed against Jones Day client, Parker Hannifin Corporation, and others resulting from the crash of a single-engine Beech Bonanza that claimed the lives of the pilot, his wife, and two minor children. In federal court, the estates of the pilot and his spouse asserted product defect claims against Parker Hannifin claiming that its vacuum pump, which powered certain flight instruments, failed in flight and caused the crash. The estates of the two minor children filed similar claims in King County state court.

Jones Day moved the federal court early to apply Ohio law (the place of manufacture) to the claims brought against Parker Hannifin. Following joint oral argument before both courts, the federal judge issued an opinion holding that Ohio law would govern the claims against Parker Hannifin, rather than the laws of Washington or Oregon, as plaintiffs argued. See 447 F. Supp.2d 1166 (W.D. Wash. 2006) (choice of law). The state court entered a similar order.

Jones Day then filed a motion for summary judgment in federal court based on Ohio law and other federal grounds. The court granted Parker Hannifin's motion and dismissed Parker Hannifin with prejudice, notwithstanding plaintiffs' attempt to amend their complaint or that discovery had not yet closed. See 2006 WL 3231974 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 7, 2006). The opinion was the first summary disposition for Parker Hannifin in a case involving an overhaul of its product. A short time after the opinion was issued, the state plaintiffs settled their claims against Parker Hannifin on mutually agreeable terms. Plaintiffs have appealed the district court summary judgment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that the district court erred in its application of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 ("GARA"). Oral argument on the appeal was held before Judges McKeown, Silverman and Berzon on October 22, 2008. On October 30, 2008 the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court's grant of summary judgment.

Brewer et al. v. Dodson Aviation, et al., (2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 22588) (9th Cir. October 30, 2008)