New York Court Holds That Federal Standards of Care Preempt State-Law Standards Governing Hiring, Training, and Retention of Pilots


A New York state trial court recently added another voice to the chorus of cases finding that federal law preempts state-law standards of care in the field of aviation safety. In In re: Air Crash Near Clarence Center, New York, __ N.Y.S.2d __, 2012 WL 4324940 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2012), decided on September 21, 2012, the Erie County court held that federal standards of care applied to the plaintiffs’ claims of negligent pilot hiring, training, and retention.

The case arises out of the February 12, 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407. The plaintiffs alleged that, in addition to the pilot’s negligence in operating the airplane, defendants Colgan Air, Inc., and Pinnacle Airlines Corp. negligently hired, trained, and retained the pilot, who allegedly had a history of failed flight tests and unsafe flying tendencies.

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