Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Jeppesen & Co.

642 F.2d 339 (1981)

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Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Jeppesen & Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
642 F.2d 339 (1981)

Facts

Jeppesen & Company (Jeppesen) (defendant) published aeronautical instrument-approach charts to help pilots make instrument approaches to airports during landing. A Bonanza Airlines (Bonanza) plane crashed on approach to a Las Vegas airport while using Jeppesen’s charts, and everyone on board was killed. Aetna Casualty and Surety Company (Aetna) (plaintiff) insured Bonanza, and it paid the settled wrongful-death claims filed against the airline. As Bonanza’s subrogee, Aetna brought a product-liability claim against Jeppesen, seeking to recover the money it had paid in the wrongful-death settlements. Aetna claimed that Jeppesen’s chart was defective, and that the product defect caused Bonanza’s crash. Aetna contended that Jeppesen did not use the same scale for the plan-view and profile-view graphics on its charts, which resulted in incorrectly displaying the minimum altitude for the profile view. Aetna argued that most of Jeppesen’s charts used the same scale for both views and that pilots relied on the accuracy of Jeppesen’s charts and therefore took them for granted. Jeppesen argued that pilots never assumed that its charts used the same scale. After a bench trial, the judge found that Jeppesen’s chart was defective, which proximately caused Bonanza’s crash; that Bonanza was negligent in failing to discover and notify its pilots of the defect; and that the flight crew was not negligent in relying on Jeppesen’s defective chart. The court granted judgment in favor of Aetna, and it found comparative fault and apportioned damages in the amount of 80 percent to Jeppesen and 20 percent to Bonanza. Jeppesen appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Merrill, J.)

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