Plane Catches Fire Mid-Flight and the Airplane Crashes in Las Vegas, Killing Three

CaseyGerry’s experience with aviation law dates back to 1968 – when Dick Gerry argued this case before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The case involved a DeHavilland Dove aircraft, which caught fire midair and crashed in Las Vegas, killing the pilot, co-pilot, and two passengers. Gerry succeeded in a Federal Court bench trial, arguing the crash was caused by a faulty fuel line negligently installed in Dallas. The fuel line had been inspected by a FAA certified inspector, who failed to appreciate the serious defect. The trial court found the fuel line was in violation of 14 C.F.R. 23.998, and ruled in favor of Gerry. The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit, where it was affirmed the trial court properly refused to protect the U.S. government (and its FAA inspector) under the discretionary function clause. After appeals to the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), where Gerry argued for the respondents (the families of the victims in the crash), SCOTUS expanded federal pre-emption and protection of the United States federal agents in the field of FAA certification of airworthiness.

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