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P The


roverbial ‘BUT’


There seems to be an exception to every rule, but… in this case it comes from outside the aviation rules and regulations we discussed above. Enter civil tort litigation.


While most owners and mechanics remain outside this legal process, there are some who get dragged in by no fault of their own. Within tort law, “duty of care” carries a huge weight in determining if a person’s action was negligent.


Simply stated, “duty of care” can be defined as the actions a reasonable person would take in a similar situation. However, it seems that in aviation tort cases a reasonable owner or mechanic exercising their duty of care should second guess or exceed the very rules and regulations that a “normal” owner/operator/ mechanic is instructed to strictly follow.


For example, a recent jury verdict placed blame on an owner/ operator for not replacing an existing FAA-certified fuel tank with an aftermarket “crash resistant” fuel tank because that was something a reasonable owner/operator would have done. It didn’t matter that the accident pilot improperly performed a pre-flight check, skipped a hover check, and left a critical hydraulic switch in the wrong position, directly causing the accident and subsequent fire.


It makes you wonder what a reasonable pilot would have done.


Mechanics are not immune either. There have been several tort cases where mechanics were faulted for not pursuing the compliance of OEM mandatory bulletins on aircraft under their care. As discussed previously, OEM bulletins are not regulatory required, and it is solely up to the owner to decide whether they are complied with.


Yet, in the litigation arena, a reasonable mechanic would research the applicable bulletins — at his own expense — and demand the owner comply with these bulletins or else. Now, we learned above where demanding something got a mechanic.


As you can see, regardless of who’s in charge of maintenance and inspection of an aircraft, it will remain an unsettled topic of discussion in certain venues. I guess it all depends on what is reasonable to you.


74 July/Aug 2018


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