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Gray v. Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Co.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
125 F.3d 1371 (1997)
Lockheed Aeronautical Systems Company (Lockheed) (defendant) contracted with the United States Navy to develop and manufacture the S-3 Viking jet. As part of this process, Lockheed told the Navy that the S-3 would have two hydraulic systems and a backup manual system that could operate the jet’s servo, i.e., the part that connected the pilot’s control stick to the jet’s ailerons and allowed the pilot to turn the jet. Although Lockheed and the Navy worked together closely on the S-3’s creation, the Navy did not require that Lockheed design or manufacture the servo in any particular way. Lockheed subcontracted the servo’s design, manufacturing, and testing to another company. However, the servo’s design was defective, its manufacturing was inaccurate, and the postmanufacturing testing procedures were flawed. Four Navy personnel were in an S-3 when the pilot attempted to bank the jet during the takeoff climb from an aircraft carrier. The hydraulic and manual servo-operating systems all failed, preventing the pilot from being able to stop the bank and causing the plane to start to roll out of control. The personnel ejected from the S-3 before it crashed, but the altitude was not sufficient to allow their parachutes to open. Three of the personnel (plaintiffs) died on impact with the water and the fourth suffered serious injuries. The families of the deceased (plaintiffs) sued Lockheed for the defective servo. Lockheed argued that the claims were barred by the Boyle, i.e., military-contractor, defense. The district court found that the servo was defective and that the military-contractor defense did not apply. The district court entered judgment against Lockheed, and Lockheed appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hatchett, C.J.)
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