Court partially grants airline motion to dismiss injured passenger’s complaint

Levy v. Continental Airlines, Inc. (E.D. Pa. Oct. 1, 2007).  During a flight from Houston to Philadelphia, the passenger was injured when a large ceramic bowl fell from a broken or improperly closed overhead compartment and struck her head.  The passenger filed a lawsuit against the airline, alleging that it had negligently violated duties of care established by Pennsylvania statutory and common law and by federal regulations.

Continental moved to dismiss on the grounds that the passenger’s state law claims were preempted by the Federal Aviation Act and that the federal regulations she cited were not applicable to the case.  The court granted part, and denied part, of the motion.  The court agreed that the Federal Aviation Act preempted the state laws pled by the passenger because the Act completely preempts state standards of care in the field of aviation safety.

As to the passenger’s claims based on federal regulations, the court held that the complaint contained sufficient factual allegations to state a cause of action for violation of the standards established in 14 C.F.R. §§ 121.589 and 125.589, which deal with carriage of cargo in the passenger cabin and crewmember training.  But the court dismissed the passenger’s claims based on 14 C.F.R. §§ 25.787 and 25.853, which establish aircraft design and manufacturing standards of care, because the airline only operated the aircraft and had nothing to do with its design or manufacture.

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