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3 OVERVIEW OF AIRPORT DUTIES AND STANDARDS OF CARE IN AIRFIELD ACCIDENT CASES Jodi Howick, Howick Law PLLC INTRODUCTION This digest discusses issues that can affect an air- port proprietorâs duty and standard of care if an air- craft accident in the airfield leads to a lawsuit. Duties and standards of care are elements in a neg- ligence action alleging that an airport proprietor was required to use greater precautions to protect against an accident. Thus, precedent in this area can help an airport proprietor identify risks proactively as well as after an accident occurs. This digest begins by reviewing some very basic elements involved in a negligence action. This section is included for non-lawyers who may not be familiar with negligence litigation issues. It notes typical par- ties to an aircraft accident case, some procedural issues that might arise, the elements of a negligence cause of action, and a few important defense issues that may be available to the airport proprietor. Next the digest provides an overview of an air- port proprietorâs typical duty and standard of care under state common law (judicial law, which most states have codified to some extent). Issues in an air- craft accident case often involve questions of federal law. But in the absence of governing federal stan- dards, states apply their local laws, which normally require the court to determine whether an airport proprietor had a duty to use reasonable care to avoid an unreasonable risk of harm to a person such as the plaintiff. This section explains the basis for com- mon law duties to act with care and how courts might determine the required standard of care to avoid liability. It also provides examples of cases dis- cussing these issues in an aircraft accident setting, including cases alleging harm caused by an illegal act, such as terrorism. This section also considers a few prominent doc- trines that might prevent a court from finding that an airport proprietor had a common law duty to take precautions for others. States typically consider whether government actions involved a duty to an individual or to the public as a whole under doctrines such as the public duty doctrine. Normally, individu- als cannot base a negligence claim on a duty that the proprietor owed to the general public as a whole rather than to a particular individual. Courts also might find that parties cannot shift their legal duties to others, such as efforts to shift an airlineâs duties to the proprietor. Finally, if a proprietor is determined to have a duty toward others, immunity laws might still protect the proprietor against a lawsuit. This digest does not discuss state immunity laws, but it demonstrates immunity principles under federal law and points out a few federal immunity issues that might arise in an aircraft accident case. This digest then discusses preemption. If federal law mandates a particular action that is relevant to an aircraft accident case, a court will consider to what extent that mandate has a preemptive effect on the courtâs ability to determine state duties and standards of care in a negligence case. The digest explains basic concepts concerning preemption and how courts have applied those concepts to determine whether causes of action themselves are preempted. Courts have found that federal law does not pre- empt a remedial action for damages, but the law often can preempt the standard of care applicable in a negligence case. This digest also discusses how courts consider the preemptive effect of various fed- eral materials in an aircraft accident setting. Finally, this digest reviews a variety of cases, mainly against airport proprietors, that considered aircraft accidents in the airfield. This section is orga- nized by the type of airfield condition alleged to have caused the accident, such as bird hazards, design of airfield pavements, runway and taxiway incursions, and snow and ice conditions. This section does not attempt to discuss every possible case, but it includes a representative sample of cases to assist readers preparing to conduct additional research. I. A BASIC NEGLIGENCE CASE After an aircraft accident on the airfield, injured plaintiffs typically file state causes of action alleging negligence. The following section presents a very basic overview of issues that might arise in a negli- gence lawsuit to lay the groundwork for discussing a proprietorâs duty and standard of care in an aircraft accident case. Practitioners who work with negli- gence issues may want to proceed to the next section, since this section contains short, âencyclope- dia-styleâ entries to assist readers who may not be familiar with negligence lawsuits.
CONTENTS Introduction, 3 I. A Basic Negligence Case, 3 A. Parties and Actions, 4 B. Jurisdiction Generally, 4 C. Jurisdiction and Major Events, 4 D. Choice of Law, 5 E. Elements of a Negligence Action, 5 F. Duty, 5 G. Standard of Care, 5 H. Breach, 5 I. Causation, 6 J. Damages, 6 K. Immunity, 6 L. Other State Negligence Law Principles, 6 II. Common Law Duties and Standards of Care, 7 A. Basic Duties, 7 B. Basic Standards of Care, 8 C. Examples, 8 D. Lack of a Duty, 13 E. Nondelegable Duties, 15 F. Immunity from Suit, 16 III. Preemption, 18 A. Preemption Basics, 18 B. Remedial Actions under the FAAct, 20 C. Preemption Applications, 20 IV. , 23 C. Airport Layout Plan, 25 D. Balloons, 25 E. Birds, 26 F. Boarding, 28 G. Criminal Acts, 28 H. Major Accident Concerns, 30 I. Multiple Party Issues, 32 J. Navigational Aids, 34 K. Ramp Issues, 35 L. Runway and Taxiway Construction, 36 M. Runway and Taxiway Design, 38 N. Runway Incursions and Operations, 40 O. Runway Protection Zones and Other Adjacent Areas, 41 P. Snow and Ice, 42 Q. Strict Liability, 43 R. Tall Obstructions, 43 Conclusion, 45 Acronyms and Abbreviations, 46 Acknowledgments, 47