The Shifting Sands of Personal Jurisdiction

In the Texas Lawyer article “The Shifting Sands of Personal Jurisdiction,” Partner Ladd Sanger provided perspective on the issue of personal jurisdiction when it comes to aviation litigation. As an FAA-licensed commercial airline pilot, and a licensed helicopter pilot, Ladd examined how aviation litigation can become even more cumbersome, as battles over jurisdiction continue to prolong and complicate cases.

“Aviation cases are particularly affected by personal jurisdiction, because there are almost always numerous jurisdictions implicated given the transient nature of aircraft,” Sanger wrote. “For example, it is common for an aircraft to be manufactured in one location, maintenance on the aircraft and its engines to be done in several states, manufacturers in additional jurisdictions, and operators/pilots coming from yet other places.”

What this all adds up to for plaintiffs is often the need to file multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions, resulting in inefficiency within the judicial system, as each separate case will proceed on different discovery and trial schedules. This translates to drawn out litigation and increasingly complex battles with the defense, who typically fight to avoid jurisdictions which they believe to have a plaintiff bias. For both sides, the litigation of jurisdiction can easily wind up costing more than the underlying litigation.

So where does that leave aviation litigation today, in the future and particularly in Texas? Sanger concluded by noting that Texas is already seeing the implications surrounding the changes in personal jurisdiction, which has resulted in an uptick in aviation cases filed in Texas. This is likely because the state is home to many airframe, engine and maintenance companies where jurisdiction is proper under the most stringent standards, as well as the state’s pro-business mentality, sophisticated judiciary and laws favorable to defendants.”

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