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Alfreda Smith Ovesen v. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America

May 7, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John G. Koeltl, District Judge:


This case arises out of an airplane crash near San Juan Puerto Rico in 2002. The plaintiff, Alfreda Smith Ovesen ("Ovesen"), is the representative of the estate of Svend A. Ovesen (the "decedent"), who was killed after the Mitsubishi MU-2B plane that he was flying crashed. The aircraft was operated by the decedent's company, Crucian International, Inc. ("Crucian"). The defendants are two manufacturers of the MU-2B, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., and its subsidiary, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, Inc. (collectively, "Mitsubishi"). On February 29, 2012, this Court granted summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on the ground that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the eighteen-year statute of repose provided by the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 ("GARA"), Pub. L. No. 103-298, 108 Stat. 1552, (appended as a note to 49 U.S.C. § 40101). Ovesen has now moved for reconsideration of that decision pursuant to Local Rule 6.3.


The standard to be applied to a motion for reconsideration under Local Rule 6.3 is well-established. It is the same as the standard that was applied under former Local Civil Rule 3(j). See United States v. Letscher, 83 F. Supp. 2d 367, 382 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (collecting cases). The moving party is required to demonstrate that "the Court [ ] overlooked controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before it on the underlying motion, and which, had they been considered, might have reasonably altered the result before the court." Vincent v. Money Store, No. 03 Civ. 2876, 2011 WL 5977812, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2011) (citation omitted).

The decision to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration "rests within the sound discretion of the district court." Id. (citation omitted). The rule "is narrowly construed and strictly applied so as to avoid repetitive arguments on issues that have been fully considered by the court." Walsh v. McGee, 918 F. Supp. 107, 110 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (citation omitted); see also Eaton Vance Mut. Funds Fee Litig., 403 F. Supp. 2d 310, 313 (S.D.N.Y. 2005), aff'd, Bellikoff v. Eaton Vance Corp., 481 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2007); Vincent, 2011 WL 5977812, at *1.


Ovesen brought the underlying wrongful death action in 2004, after the decedent was killed in a crash while piloting a Mitsubishi MU-2B-35 model twin engine propeller aircraft, Serial No. 558 (the "Aircraft") near San Juan, Puerto Rico. This lawsuit seeks to recover damages for the decedent's death and the loss of Crucian's property. Ovesen v. Mitsubishi Heavy Indus. of Am., Inc., No. 04 Civ. 2849, 2012 WL 677953, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 1, 2012). The Aircraft was designed and manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan, and thereafter exported to the United States pursuant to a Certificate of Airworthiness for Export issued by the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (the "JCAB") in 1971. The Aircraft was imported to the United States pursuant to an Import Type Certificate, Type Certificate A2PC, issued by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (the "FAA") under what is now 14 C.F.R. § 21.29. Id.

Mitsubishi ultimately moved for summary judgment, arguing that the eighteen-year statute of repose in GARA barred Ovesen's claims. Ovesen argued in response that an exception to the GARA statute of repose exists when the manufacturer of an aircraft has "knowingly misrepresented to the Federal Aviation Administration, or concealed or withheld from the Federal Aviation Administration, required information that is material and relevant to the performance or the maintenance or operation of such aircraft . . . , that is causally related to the harm which the claimant allegedly suffered," GARA § 2(b)(1), and that this exception was applicable in Ovesen's case because Mitsubishi had withheld a 1973 report (the "CAA Report") from the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority (the "CAA") that allegedly highlighted performance problems experienced by the MU-2B in executing maneuvers similar to the holding pattern that the decedent was flying when the accident occurred. Id.

Mitsubishi argued in response that the CAA Report was not "required information" for the purpose of the exception to GARA's statute of repose. The parties agreed, and the plaintiff does not dispute, that whether the CAA Report is "required information" is governed by 14 C.F.R. § 21.3, which provides:

The holder of a type certificate . . . must report any failure, malfunction, or defect in any product or article manufactured by it that it determines has resulted in any of the occurrences listed in paragraph (c) of this section.

14 C.F.R. § 21.3(a); see also Ovesen, 2012 WL 677953, at *3. However, the same regulation also provides that "[t]he requirements of [14 C.F.R. § 21.3(a)] do not apply to . . . [f]ailures, malfunctions, or defects in products or articles . . . [m]anufactured by a foreign manufacturer under a U.S. type certificate issued under § 21.29 or under an approval issued under § 21.621." 14 C.F.R. at § 21.3(d)(2); see also Ovesen, 2012 WL 677953, at *3. The parties agreed, and the plaintiff does not now dispute, that "the Aircraft was a product or article '[m]anufactured by a foreign manufacturer under a U.S. type certificate issued under § 21.29,' because the A2PC type certificate was such a type certificate." Id. at *4.

This Court found that, in accordance with the plain language of the regulation, the CAA Report was not "required information" under GARA, and therefore that failure to provide the CAA Report was not a basis for the plaintiff to avoid GARA's statute of repose. Id. at *4-*6. The Court found that "[t]his result is not only required by the plain text of the statute and the regulation, but comports with the intent of the FAA, the drafter of the regulation, to put the responsibility for providing information about foreign manufactured aircraft on the foreign aviation authorities in the nation where the manufacturing takes place." Id. at *5. The Court further found that "[t]his result also comports with GARA's statutory purpose," because "Congress 'believed that manufacturers were being driven to the wall because, among other things, of the long tail of liability attached to those aircraft, which could be used for decades after they were first manufactured and sold.'" Id. (quoting Lyon v. Agusta S.P.A., 252 F.3d 1078, 1084 (9th Cir. 2001)). The Court granted summary judgment in favor of Mitsubishi.


The plaintiff offers one argument in this motion for reconsideration. Relying on GARA's legislative history, Ovesen argues that Congress intended to benefit the domestic aircraft manufacturing industry. The plaintiff does not challenge the Court's interpretation of the plain language of 14 C.F.R. § 21.3. However, the plaintiff argues that 14 C.F.R. § 21.3(d), which exempts from the definition of "required information" in § 21.3(a) certain information, like the CAA Report, relating to aircraft manufactured in foreign countries, is contrary to Congress' intent to benefit domestic manufacturers. Ovesen thus argues that the Court should reconsider its interpretation of § 21.3. Ovesen relies for legal authority upon the statement in Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), that ...

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