The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of a state common-law negligence claim alleging that an airline negligently failed to warn passengers about the dangers of deep vein thrombosis (“DVT”) holding that such claims are impliedly preempted by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, 49 U.S.C. § 40101. In Miezin v. Midwest Express Airlines, Inc., the Court held that the imposition of state standards would conflict with the federal law and objectives of the comprehensive scheme of federal regulation applicable to the aviation and the airline industry.
The Court felt that “[t]he pervasive regulations concerning the warnings that must be given to airline passengers indicate that ‘Congress left no room for the States to supplement’ these regulations.” and “[i]f state requirements for announcements to airline passengers were not impliedly preempted by the Federal Aviation Act, each state would be free to require any announcement it wished on all planes arriving in, or departing from, its soil.” It concluded that “on the narrow topic before us – warnings that are given to airline passengers – we conclude that the Federal Aviation Act impliedly preempts the application of state common-law negligence standards to failure-to-warn claims like that presented here.”
It is important to note that the Court did not decide whether a state claim for failure to warn passengers of air travel risks is entirely preempted, or, is preempted to the extent that a federal standard must be used but that state remedies are available. Since Miezin did not claim that Midwest violated any federal standards in failing to give a warning about DVT, this issue was not before the Court.