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07/08/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/08/2020 13:16

Katt, Kearns and Geary Defeat Petition for Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in Aviation Matter, Cementing Precedential Ninth Circuit Victory

Katt, Kearns and Geary Defeat Petition for Certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in Aviation Matter, Cementing Precedential Ninth Circuit Victory

July 8, 2020

Bill Katt (Partner-Milwaukee), Patrick Kearns (Partner-San Diego) and Kevin Geary (Associate-Milwaukee) obtained a significant U.S. Supreme Court victory in favor of a major helicopter operator in a case involving multiple fatalities. The issue before the Supreme Court involved the attempted use of 'federal officer' jurisdiction for product manufacturers to remove a case to federal court. The opposing party originally removed the case to federal court claiming that because the FAA had delegated it some self-certification functions, it was 'acting under' the direction of federal officer. Bill, Patrick and Kevin successfully moved for remand, arguing that the authority given by the FAA was insufficient to confer 'federal officer' status. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, they highlighted the potential consequences of the opposing party's position, noting that if product manufacturers in highly regulated industries were to have a universal 'free pass' to federal court jurisdiction, preemption defenses could effectively eliminate state-court products liability entirely for certain manufacturers, leaving an imbalance in liability exposure for operators. The Ninth Circuit agreed, and following its decision, the opposing party filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, where the team highlighted that the Ninth Circuit's decision was in line with Supreme Court precedent and other federal circuit courts of appeal that have addressed the issue of 'federal officer' jurisdiction. Additionally, they argued that the rarity of this issue reaching the federal circuit courts of appeal rendered further review inappropriate and premature. The Supreme Court agreed, denying the petition for certiorari and allowing the Ninth Circuit's decision affirming the remand to state court to stand. After nearly two years litigating this issue, the case will proceed in state court.

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