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David H. Pease, Iii and Lisa Pease v. Lycoming Engines

August 22, 2011

DAVID H. PEASE, III AND LISA PEASE, PLAINTIFFS
v.
LYCOMING ENGINES, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs David H. Pease III ("Mr. Pease") and Lisa Pease ("Mrs. Pease") (collectively, "plaintiffs") bring this diversity action against defendant Lycoming Engines Inc. ("Lycoming Engines"). Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 47) to dismiss or strike plaintiffs' claims in the amended complaint, filed by Lycoming Engines.

I. Background

An aviation accident, which occurred on June 5, 2005, gave rise to the instant lawsuit. A Piper/PA-32R -301T aircraft, piloted by Mr. Pease, crashed near Tazewall, Tennessee, injuring Mr. Pease. Plaintiffs allege that the crash occurred after Mr. Pease's plane "experienced a catastrophic engine failure, due to engine oil starvation and the failure of critical internal engine parts." (Doc. 43 at 4). The engine in Mr. Pease's Piper aircraft, a TIO-540-AH1A engine ("AH1A"), was manufactured and designed by Lycoming Engines,*fn1 a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place of business in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. (Id. at 1-2).

A. Plaintiffs' Claims*fn2

Plaintiffs list six counts in their first amended complaint. These counts are as follows: violation of Civil Air Regulation ("CAR") Part 13, et seq., Aircraft Engine Airworthiness (Count I); violation of Federal Aviation Regulation ("FAR") §§ 21.3 and 145.21 (Count II); violation of FAR §§ 33 et seq. (Count III); reckless and careless conduct (Count IV); Punitive Conduct (Count V);*fn3 and Loss of Consortium by Mrs. Pease (Count VI).*fn4

In Count I of the first amended complaint, plaintiffs allege violations of multiple sections of CAR Part 13. First, plaintiffs allege that Lycoming Engines violated CAR Part 13.200(a)*fn5 and CAR Part 13.201.*fn6 (Id. at 5-6). Plaintiffs allege that Lycoming Engines violated the standard of care contained in Part 13.200(a) when:

Despite knowledge that common design of the drip tube, oil drain tank and turbocharger attachment flange fractures [sic] and parts of the cantilevered design make performance of basic component parts "hazardous and unreliable," Lycoming negligently, carelessly and recklessly manufactured and maintained the similar design of the base model of the TIO 540 series engines in its subsequent engines including the TIO-540 AH1A. (Id. at 6). As for Part 13.201, plaintiffs allege that parts of the AH1A engine were neither suitable nor durable in conformity with the meaning of the regulation, that some designs and fabrication were never tested individually prior to certification, and that these deficiencies "led to the publication of the Extron/Lycoming Mandatory Service Bulletin 534 on March 24, 1999 . . . ." (Id. at 6-7). This bulletin required "examinations of the analogous TIO 540 model turbo drip tube with a weld at the 90 (degree) elbow." (Id. at 7). Plaintiffs claim that a similar tube connecting the oil drip tank and turbocharger in the AH1A model engine was not properly tested in accordance with the two above regulations for parts durability or suitability. (Id.) Had testing and design in accordance with Part 13.201 been accomplished, plaintiffs allege that Lycoming Engines would have detected problems with part suitability and durability before the occurrence of "in-service failures." (Id.)

Plaintiffs also allege violations of CAR Part 13.103*fn7 and 13.100(a), which require that a manufacturer such as Lycoming Engines validate through testing that engine parts and accessories are not susceptible to undue vibration. (Id. at 7-8). Plaintiffs contend that Lycoming Engines did not conduct vibration testing on the AH1A engine, and that by failing to conduct such testing, the company violated its duty of care as established in Parts 13.103 and 13.100(a). (Id. at 8). Plaintiffs also claim that Lycoming Engines violated CAR Part 13.151, which requires that a vibration survey be conducted in order "to investigate the vibration characteristics of the engine over the operational range of rotational speed and engine power." (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that Lycoming Engines' certification through prior testing on a related engine model, such as the A1A engine, was inadequate for purposes of Part 13.151 and violated the federally-imposed standard of care. (Id. at 8-9).*fn8 In Count II of the first amended complaint, plaintiffs allege that Lycoming

Engines violated FAR §§ 21.3 and 145.21. (Id. at 10-13). According to FAR Part 21.3, and except as provided in Part 21.3(d), a holder of a type certificate is, inter alia, required to "report any failure, malfunction or defect in any product, part, process or article manufactured by it that it determines has resulted in any of the occurrences listed in paragraph (c) of this section," such as an engine failure. (Id. at 10-11). Plaintiffs claim that Lycoming Engines knew of particular failures regarding malfunctions and defects in the TIO model series engines and failed to report these under FAR § 21.3(d).*fn9 (Id. at 11). Hence, the FAA was unable to take appropriate action to correct these failures, malfunctions, and defects; and therefore, according to plaintiffs, Mr. Pease suffered injuries in the June 5, 2005 aviation accident.

In Count III of their first amended complaint, plaintiffs allege that Lycoming Engines violated FAR §§ 33, et seq. (Id. at 13-15). Plaintiffs claim that Lycoming Engines' representation that the AH1A engine was "substantially similar" to the original A1A "does not reflect compliance with the current standards as set forth in FAR Part 33, et seq. and ignores current minimum airworthiness safety standards." (Id. at 14). Plaintiffs allege that Lycoming Engines has violated §§ 33.4, 33.19, 33.35, 33.33, 33.43, 33.49, and 33.83 by failing to conduct testing in such areas as airworthiness, vibration, durability, and endurance. (Id. at 14-15). Plaintiffs claim Mr. Pease suffered injury as a result of such failure. (Id. at 15).

In Count IV of the first amended complaint, plaintiffs claim that Lycoming Engines' violation of the above CARs and FARs "was careless, reckless and it was done in complete disregard for the lives of pilots, including David Pease." (Id. at 15-16). Plaintiffs claim that Lycoming Engines violated the aviation industry's federal standard of care and breached its "duty owed to the purchasers, owners and operators of aircraft with TIO 540 series engines . . . ." (Id. at 16). Plaintiffs claim that, as a result of these breaches, Mr. Pease suffered injury. (Id. at 16-17). Finally, in Count VI of the first amended complaint, plaintiffs state a claim by Mrs. Pease for loss of consortium.

B. Procedural Hisotry

On April 20, 2007, plaintiffs filed suit against Lycoming Engines and fourteen other defendants in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. (Doc. 1-2). On April 19, 2010, the Middle District of Alabama granted plaintiffs' motion to transfer venue (Doc. 8-4) and transferred the action to this court ...


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