Legislation is well underway in the U.S. House that will mandate that all helicopters now be manufactured with crash-resistant fuel tanks. In 2015, a fatal helicopter crash in Frisco claimed the pilot’s life and severely injured two others. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter, both U.S. Representatives from Colorado, are sponsoring the bill. Perlmutter said that although the problem was detected years ago, nobody has required that a solution is mandated for this hazard. Those investigating the incident feel that the crash may not have been as severe if the aircraft had a crash-resistant system to carry the fuel. David Repsher and Matthew Bowe survived the crash, but were severely injured and have since brought suit against Air Methods Corporation, the operator, and Airbus Helicopters S.A.S, the manufacturer. The National Transportation Safety Board says that only about 15% of helicopters have been built with crash resistant modules since 1994.
Both Repsher and Bowe brought civil suits that stated the helicopter was unsafe for operation when it malfunctioned. Repsher was burned on approximately 90% of his body from the fire that occurred in the accident, while Bowe experienced a host of debilitating injuries. Patrick Mahany, the pilot, was killed in the accident that occurred at the Summit Medical Center at St. Anthony’s. Observers say that the helicopter malfunctioned during takeoff and the unsafe fuel tank greatly heightened the severity of the fiery crash.
In both Bowe and Repsher’s cases, a Colorado state court ruled that these specific claims, which are related to injuries occurring as a result of helicopter design flaw, are preempted by federal law. The defendants motioned for the dismissal of the complaints because they were filed under the state standards rather than the federal. The courts agreed and required that the complaints be amended according to federal regulation. The concept of preemption exists within the U.S. Constitution and there are three primary types: express, conflict, and implied. In this matter, the guidelines are in accordance with the Federal Aviation Act (FAA) of 1958 and Federal Aviation Regulations.
All claims that are associated with the design, accreditation, and performance for the AS350B3e aircraft are based on federal standards. Not all states have recognized implied preemption relating to aviation; however, the Colorado Supreme Court had two prior cases where they did. Several federal court circuits have ruled that federal law preempts the entire realm of aviation safety. The FAA’s goal has been to develop centralized regulatory framework with desired uniformity.
Accidents are an unfortunate part of life; however, in far too many cases, they are the result of product manufacture negligence. If you or a loved one has incurred severe injuries, you should consult with an experienced lawyer that practices in the field of personal injury and product liability. Contact the Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal for a complimentary consultation at (303) 825-2223.