Williams v. McDonnell Douglas
Lawsuit on behalf of a flight attendant who suffered serious permanent injuries from breathing toxic “bleed air” — engine oil fumes emitted from a defectively designed aircraft.
Defendants McDonnell Douglas and Boeing moved for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiffs Terry and Gary Williams’s state-law claims for defective design were preempted by the Federal Aviation Act and regulations promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
As Public Justice argued, however, state tort claims are not preempted where the FAA has not pervasively regulated in a particular area — such as the design of an aircraft’s ventilation system. And even if the FAA had pervasively regulated, plaintiffs’ state-law claims are not preempted if they can prove a violation of a federal standard.
In July 2011, the trial judge denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, instead issuing an order that plaintiffs’ state-law claims may proceed because plaintiffs intend to prove a violation of a federal standard. The case has since settled for a confidential amount.
Public Justice Senior Attorney Leslie Brueckner worked on the case with co-counsel Alisa Brodkowitz of Brodkowitz Law in Seattle and Mike Withey of the Law Offices of Michael Withey in Seattle. Former Public Justice Brayton-Thorton Attorney Melanie Hirsch also worked on this case.