divegeek wrote:Do you have a citation for this? It seems like such a significant event in private aviation would be more widely known.
And you'd think that among gun enthusiasts it would be widely known that it was cities
and other government entities and agents that were suing gun makers in most cases, rather than actual private individuals. But despite my repeatedly pointing this out and providing references to back up my assertions, those who hold unlimited access to civil courts in higher regard than enumerated rights like RKBA continue to ignore or implicitly challenge this data.
Still, a 10 second google search turns up this nice referencereference
that details the history.
A few excerpts:
General aviation accounts for three-quarters of all aircraft that take off and land in the United States.... According to the National Air Transportation Association, the general aviation industry contributes about $100 billion to the U.S. economy each year and accounts for about 1.3 million jobs.
General aviation was an industry that became the victim of its own success. The better it built the planes, the longer they lasted; the longer they lasted, the greater the potential liability because of judicial interpretations, such as strict liability, that altered tort law. General aviation was in a classic catch-22 situation -- a quality industry that was being punished because of its success.
In 1980, there were 29 U.S. manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and 15 foreign manufacturers. Now that ratio has been reversed. In 1992, there were 29 foreign manufacturers of general aviation aircraft and only 9 U.S. manufacturers.
In 1986, battered by product-liability lawsuits and soaring insurance costs, Cessna Aircraft Co. stopped producing propeller-driven airplanes. After 60 years in the field, the world's largest manufacturer of single-engine light aircraft bailed out and focused on jets. Cessna, which once produced about 6,500 aircraft per year stopped building, totally stopped building small piston aircraft. ... . Since 1986, that company had spent over $20 million a year -- $160 million over the 8 years from 1986 to 1994 -- defending lawsuits, involving aircraft as old as 47 years.
Beech Aircraft spent over $100 million in legal fees over four years to defend itself from 203 product liability lawsuits. This, despite the fact that in none of those cases did the National Transportation Safety Board find Beeches' Aircraft to be defective. These added costs have forced many manufacturers to curtail production and have forced many potential aircraft purchasers completely out of the market.
Piper Aircraft Corp., another major player in the industry, tumbled into bankruptcy for the same reasons. ... By 1994 that industry was manufacturing only a fraction of the airplanes it was building just 15 years earlier. The whole U.S. general aviation industry sold only 444 planes in 1994. ...
General aviation aircraft sales by U.S. manufacturers dropped from 17,000 aircraft built in 1979 to 954 such aircraft in 1993. For single engine, piston aircraft, the decline has been even more significant, from 14,000 units in 1978 to 555 in 1993. Along with the loss of production there has been, more importantly, the loss of over 100,000 jobs in general aviation manufacturing and the related industries.Just in Wichita alone, Beech Aircraft employed 9,000 workers in 1980. Today they employ 5,000. Cessna Aircraft employed 15,000 people in 1981. By 1994 Cessna employs 5,300. And Piper Aircraft, of Vero Beach, FL, while they had 8,500 people working in 1979, by 1994 had just 360 employees. The decline in general aviation manufacturing worsened the US position in international trade. In 1980, the US exported $120 million surplus in single engine piston aircraft, but that surplus declined to a bare $5 million in 1992.
The increase in product liability costs has occurred even though the safety of the general aviation aircraft has been improving, consistently improving over recent years. The number of fatal general aviation accidents has dropped a staggering 700 percent since the end of World War II. The general aviation accident rate itself dropped about 30 percent from 1981 to 1994. Most general aviation accidents are not caused by defects in the aircraft or the parts but are caused by pilot error, weather or poor maintenance.
The general aviation industry won a huge battle in 1994 when Congress passed a landmark product liability bill intended to breathe new life into a declining industry. The legislation limited product liability for planes to 18 years after production. Cessna immediately announced plans to resume production of its small planes.
divegeek wrote:I'd say the system worked. The courts screwed up badly enough that Congress had to step in and fix it. Fine. Granted, Congress could have acted a little quicker after it became clear that the industry was being severely damaged by the liability question. But it would have been inappropriate for Congress to step in early, when people were just speculating about what the impact might be.
If this is your idea of the system "working" then I hope it never "works" for RKBA. Hundreds of millions of lawfully earned, private dollars forced to be wasted on bogus suits, multiple manufacturers forced out of business, the industry damaged almost beyond repair. Even today, over 15 years after congress finally passed the law to protect airplane manufacturers, the cost of private airplane ownership remains much higher than it was prior to the abuse of civil courts by money grubbing ambulance chasers and small minded jurors who refused to look at facts, and instead decided that "big business" should give money to every person who was hurting.
At least on general aviation, I'm not sure anyone had seen similar effects on a legit, safe, legal business before, and general aviation is not an enumerated constitutional right. And the lawsuits were actually private torts, brought by individuals.
But having learned from history, it would have been grossly negligent for congress to allow the same thing to happen to gun makers. Congress waited until after numerous courts refused to dismiss bogus suits against gun makers.
RoccoRacer wrote:This pretty much sums up my point of view. Why shouldn't "innocent until proven guilty" be applied to the court system itself? Until it has proven that it doesn't function constitutionally the added legislation is not necessary. The above example shows (imo) that the system of checks and balances works.
Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Having seen what lawsuits did to airplanes, the gun haters adopted a similar--though even more offensive--tactic to go after guns. I don't think anyone actually wanted to kill private aviation. They were just greedy. But the clear intent with NYC's and similar lawsuits was to restrict RKBA. It would be beyond foolish for the pro-RKBA side to sit back and allow those attacks to go unchecked over some indefensible attachment to private tort...especially when it was even a private party bringing suit.
Congress acted appropriately to end these bogus suits BEFORE
history repeated itself and we had even more gun makers go out of business, the cost of guns rise, and the availability and diversity of gun shrink.
It is individuals who "innocent until proven guilty." Government power, whether exercised via the executive or the judicial branch should always be viewed with some degree of concern and suspicion. In this case, I say congress acted appropriately within its 14th amendment power (among others) to limit abuse of and by the courts before more damage was inflicted. Some others seem to say that they prefer to see judicial power allowed to be abused and to abuse (via
bad rulings) than to see legislative power properly employed. I'm having a very difficult time understanding that mindset.
Do you place this same abundance of trust in the civil system when government is suing to seize property sans criminal conviction via "civil asset forfeiture" proceedings?
Or you ok with some number of children being wrongly taken from their parents via civil proceedings initiated by child services?
If so, I'd love to hear that rational. If not, I'd like to hear what it is that you think makes the gun liability suits brought by NYC materially different.
I will not claim to know your or Diver's motivation. But I am really curious if either of you would be able and willing to explain why it is you place so much emphasis on the sanctity of the tort even the point of accepting that private companies and individuals and perhaps even fundamental rights like RKBA or property ownership will suffer needlessly so as to protect torts from any possible "premature" legislative limits?