Getz v. The Boeing Company

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-02-2011
  • Case #: 10-15284
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wallace for the Court; Circuit Judges Noonan and Clifton
  • Full Text Opinion

Defendants were entitled to a contractor defense when the United States approved reasonably precise specification of the defendants’ product, the defendant’s equipment conformed to those specifications, and the supplier warned the U.S. about known dangers of the product.

In February 2007, an army helicopter transporting military personnel crashed after one of its engine’s shut down, killing eight servicemen and injuring fourteen. One investigation into the crash suggested that the engine control system unexpectedly shut down causing the engine to fail. The second investigation showed that the engine shut down due to inclement weather. Plaintiffs filed an action in state court against the contractors that designed and manufactured the aircraft alleging product liability, negligence, wrongful death, and loss of consortium. The Boeing Company (Boeing) removed the action to federal court under the Federal Officer Removal Statute. The district court rejected all of plaintiffs’ claims. The district court also asserted that it lacked personal jurisdiction over ATEC, a British company, and granted summary judgment to Boeing and the other defendants because Plaintiff’s state-law claims were preempted by the government contractor defense. The plaintiffs’ appeal to the Ninth Circuit to determine if their claims against ATEC arise under federal law, and to determine if their claims were barred by the government contractor defense. With regard to the ATEC claim, the Ninth Circuit determined that the claims alleged only arise under state law and do not arise under federal law for purposes of Rule 4(k)(2), and therefore there is no personal jurisdiction over the company. With regard to the government contractor defense, the Ninth Circuit determined that the defendants successfully invoked the defense since: the United States approved reasonably precise specifications, the equipment conformed to the specifications, and the supplier warned the U.S. about the known dangers of the equipment. Therefore, Summary Judgment was proper. AFFIRMED.

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