In Montalvo v. Spirit Airlines, a group of consolidated cases, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district judge’s grant of summary judgment on behalf of various airlines facing state law claims that the airlines failed to warn passengers about the danger of developing deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”). The district court determined that the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, 49 U.S.C. 40103 and associated regulations promulgated by the FAA regarding aviation safety, preempt state law standards of care, including any state-imposed duty to warn about the risks of DVT.
The 9th Circuit held that “[t]he FAA and the relevant federal regulations preempt Plaintiffs’ failure to warn claim, because the FAA preempts the entire field of aviation safety through implied field preemption. The FAA and regulations promulgated pursuant to it establish complete and thorough safety standards for air travel, which are not subject to supplementation by, or variation among, state laws.” The Court noted that “[h]ere, the regulations enacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, read in conjunction with the FAA itself, sufficiently demonstrate an intent to occupy exclusively the entire field of aviation safety and carry out Congress’ intent to preempt all state law in this field.”
The Court also concluded that “[b]ecause the FAA preempts the entire field of aviation safety from state and territorial regulation, the Airlines are under no obligation to warn of the risk of developing DVT, absent a federal mandate to do so.” Since no existing federal regulations require airlines to warn about the risks of DVT, the airlines had no duty to warn.