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CHAMPLAIN ENTERPRISES v. UNITED STATES

November 16, 1996

CHAMPLAIN ENTERPRISES, INC., d/b/a COMMUTAIR, Plaintiff, against UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and BEECH AIRCRAFT COMPANY, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCAVOY

 I. BACKGROUND

 This case arises from the crash of CommutAir Flight 4821. On January 3, 1992, the aircraft was on approach to Adirondack Airport in Saranac Lake, New York. It struck a mountain approximately 4.3 miles short of the runway and was destroyed. Two persons died and two persons survived the crash. In a related case, Momen, et. al. v. U.S., et. al. 946 F. Supp. 196, one of the survivors of the crash brought suit in this Court alleging negligence on the part of USAir, Champlain Enterprises (the plaintiff here), Beech Aircraft, and the United States.

 Plaintiff, a New York corporation, is the owner/operator of the aircraft that crashed. Named as defendants in this action are the United States and Beech Aircraft--the manufacturer of the plane. Beech Aircraft Corp. ("Beech") is a Kansas corporation with its principle place of business in Wichita, Kansas. By Order dated October 15, 1996, this Court granted co-defendant United States' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed all claims against the United States in this action.

 Currently pending before this Court is defendant Beech Aircraft's Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion to Amend its Complaint, for a second time, to state additional causes of action against Beech Aircraft.

 Plaintiff's Second and Third Causes of Action state claims against Beech. Plaintiff's Second Cause of Action asserts negligence in the design and manufacture of the aircraft's Instrument Landing System ("ILS") components as well as failure to instruct and warn concerning these deficiencies. Plaintiff's Third Cause of Action sounds in strict liability, in that Beech is alleged to have sold a product that was unreasonably dangerous. Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended Complaint seeks to add two additional causes of action for breach of express and implied warranties.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Defendant seeks dismissal of all claims contained in the Second and Third Causes of Action for failure to state claims upon which relief can be granted. In addition, Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff's delay is prejudicial. The crux of Beech's dismissal argument is that a plaintiff cannot recover from the manufacturer of a product, for the loss of the product itself, based on theories of strict products liability or negligence.

 A. Motion To Dismiss

 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a cause of action shall be dismissed if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In analyzing a motion to dismiss, the facts alleged by the plaintiff are assumed to be true and must be liberally construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Easton v. Sundram, 947 F.2d 1011, 1014-15 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 504 U.S. 911, 118 L. Ed. 2d 548, 112 S. Ct. 1943 (1992). While the court need not accept mere conclusions of law, the court should accept the pleader's description of what happened along with any conclusions that can reasonably be drawn therefrom. See Murray v. City of Milford, 380 F.2d 468 (2d Cir. 1967).

 Furthermore, when a party makes a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court will limit its consideration to the facts asserted on the face of the complaint. Cosmas v. Hassett, 886 F.2d 8, 13 (2d Cir. 1989). A complaint will not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears, beyond a doubt, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle them to relief. See Wanamaker v. Columbian Rope Co., 740 F. Supp. 127 (N.D.N.Y. 1990).

 With this standard in mind, the Court will address the sufficiency of Plaintiff's Second and Third Causes of Action.

 B. Plaintiff's Second and Third Causes of Action

 Plaintiff's Second and Third Causes of Action state claims against Beech for negligence and strict products liability. As an initial matter, the Court must determine what law to apply in a situation where an aircraft manufactured and sold in Kansas, by Kansas corporations, is operated by a New York corporation and crashes in New York State.

 i. Choice of Law Analysis

 In a diversity action, a federal court must apply the substantive law of the state in which it sits. See Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 82 L. Ed. 1188, 58 S. Ct. 817 (1938). Because choice of law rules are substantive, we must apply the law that a New York State court would apply. Klaxon Co. v. ...


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