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Lewis v. Lycoming

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 22, 2014

PAMELA LEWIS, et al.
v.
LYCOMING, et al

Page 540

For Pamela Lewis, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF STEVE EDWARD LEWIS, DECEASED, Keith Whitehead, John Joseph Wroblewski, AS CO-PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ESTATE OF PHILIP CHARLES GRAY, DECEASED, Plaintiffs: RICHARD E. GENTER, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jenkintown, PA, USA; DANIEL O. ROSE, EVAN KATIN-BORLAND, PRO HAC VICE, KREINDLER & KREINDLER LLP, New York, NY, USA.

For Lycoming, A/K/A, D/B/A, AND/OR F/K/A LYCOMING ENGINES, TEXTRON SYSTEMS CORPORATION, TEXTRON, INC., TEXTRON, AVCO CORPORATION, TEXTRON LYCOMING, TEXTRON LYCOMING RECIPROCATING ENGINE DIVISION AND/OR AVCO LYCOMING, Avco Corporation, A/K/A, D/B/A AND/OR F/K/A TEXTRON, INC., TEXTRON SYSTEMS CORPORATION, TEXTRON LYCOMING RECIPROCATING ENGINE DIVISION, AVCO LYCOMING, LYCOMING ENGINES AND/OR LYCOMING, Defendants: CATHERINE B. SLAVIN, LEAD ATTORNEY, GORDON & REES LLP, Philadelphia, PA, USA; JAMES E. ROBINSON, LEAD ATTORNEY, SARA ANDERSON FREY, GORDON & REES LLP, Philadelphia, PA.

For Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, Defendant: GARRETT J. FITZPATRICK, LEAD ATTORNEY, JAMES C. STROUD, FITZPATRICK & HUNT, TUCKER, COLLIER, PAGANO, AUBERT, LLP, New York, NY, USA; JOHN C. MCMEEKIN, RAWLE & HENDERSON, Philadelphia, PA, USA; TARA E. NICOLA, PRO HAC VICE, FITZPATRICK HUNT TUCKER COLLIER PAGANO AUBERT LLP, New York, NY, USA.

Page 541

MEMORANDUM

Harvey Bartle III, J.

Pamela Margaret Lewis, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Steven Edward Lewis, and Keith Whitehead and John Joseph Wroblewski as co-personal representatives of the estate of Philip Charles Gray (collectively " plaintiffs" ) have brought this diversity action against defendants Avco Corporation and Lycoming Engines (collectively " Avco" ) as well as against Schweizer Aircraft Corporation.[1] The lawsuit arises out of a helicopter crash that occurred on September 22, 2009 near Blackpool in Lancashire, England. Lewis and Gray were both killed in the incident. The complaint, which was originally filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and removed here, contains claims for damages on theories of product liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and concert of action.

Before the court is the motion of Avco for the application of English law to the issue of damages. Plaintiffs have opposed this motion and filed a cross-motion for the application of the damages law of Pennsylvania.

I.

The relevant facts are undisputed for present purposes. On September 22, 2009, Gray participated in a training flight as a student of Lewis, a certified flight instructor. These individuals as well as the plaintiffs in this action are or were British citizens and residents of the United Kingdom. During the flight Lewis issued a mayday call over the radio, which transmission included the word, " failure." A low-R.P.M. warning tone could be heard in the final radio transmission, indicating that the helicopter's main rotor blade had ceased to rotate at a safe speed. Not long after this final transmission, the aircraft was discovered wrecked in a grassy field near the River Wyre north of the Blackpool Airport from which the aircraft had taken off. Both occupants died.

The helicopter at issue, registration number G-LINX, was a Schweizer 269C manufactured in 2006 by Schweizer Aircraft Corporation in New York and owned by Heli-Lynx, Ltd., a company located in Cumbria, England. Lycoming Engines, which is located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, designed, manufactured, and sold the HIO-360-G1A piston-driven engine that was installed in the aircraft. The engine was a fuel-injected model supplied by a Precision RSA-5AD1 fuel servo. Lycoming Engines closely coordinated with the servo manufacturer in the design, testing, and modification of the servo. Plaintiffs have asserted that the servo was defective, and its design and functioning have become a principal issue in this litigation.

Page 542

II.

In diversity actions such as this, courts look to the choice of law rules of the forum state, in this case Pennsylvania, to determine which state's substantive law to apply. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co.,313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (U.S. 1941). Pennsylvania follows " a flexible rule which permits analysis of the policies and interests underlying the particular issue before the court and directs courts to apply the law of the state with the most interest in the problem." Specialty Surfaces Int'l, Inc. v. Cont'l Cas. Co.,60 ...


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