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Cleveland v. Piper Aircraft Corp.

985 F.2d 1438 (1993)

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Cleveland v. Piper Aircraft Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

985 F.2d 1438 (1993)

Facts

Edward Cleveland (plaintiff) modified a Piper Super Cub airplane to install a camera in the front seat. Piloting the tail-wheel airplane from the rear seat without a shoulder harness, Cleveland attempted to take off at a closed airport. However, Cleveland collided with a van parked on the runway, and his head struck the camera in the front seat. As a result, Cleveland suffered severe head and brain injuries, and his wife was appointed as his conservator to take care of him. On Cleveland’s behalf, Cleveland’s wife sued the airplane’s manufacturer, Piper Aircraft Corporation (Piper) (defendant), under state products-liability law. At trial, the jury found that the Super Cub’s design lacked a rear shoulder harness and sufficient forward visibility from the rear seat and, therefore, that Piper owed Cleveland approximately $2.5 million in damages under state products-liability law. Piper appealed the verdict, and the verdict was vacated because the jury form had not allowed the jurors to consider the van driver’s possible responsibility. On remand, Piper argued that its airplane design was allowed under federal law and moved to have the state-law design-defect claims dismissed as preempted by the Federal Aviation Act. The trial court found no federal preemption and denied the motion. Piper appealed the denial.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lay, J.)

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