Submitted: March 28, 2014.
Upon Plaintiffs' Choice of Law Motion for the Application of Texas Law to Liability and Damages. GRANTED
Upon Defendant Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.'s Motion to Determine Law Applicable to Plaintiffs' Remedies: DENIED
Richard A. Zappa, Esquire, Timothy E. Lengeek, Esquire, Young, Conaway, Stargatt, Taylor, LLP, Robert E. Ammons, Esquire, (pro hac vice), John B. Scofield, Jr., Esquire, (pro hac vice), The Ammons Law Firm, LLP, John C. Schwambach, Jr., Esquire, (pro hac vice) (argued), Stevenson & Murray, Attorneys for Plaintiffs.
Joseph J. Bellew, Esquire, Damien N. Tancredi, Esquire, Cozen O'Connor, Catherine Slavin, Esquire, (pro hac vice) (argued), Gordon & Rees LLP, One Commerce Square, Attorneys for Defendant Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.
Jan R. Jurden, Judge.
This is a products liability action arising from a Bell B-212 helicopter crash. Before the Court are two motions, Plaintiffs' Motion for the application of Texas Law to Liability and Damages and Defendant Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc.'s (hereinafter "Bell") Motion to Determine Law Applicable to Plaintiffs' Remedies. Because Texas law has the most significant relationship with the issues raised in the motions, Plaintiffs' Motion is hereby GRANTED and Bell's Motion is hereby DENIED.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL CONTEXT
A. The Plaintiffs and the Accident
On October 15, 2010, a helicopter departed from Ciudad del Carmen, in the state of Campeche, Mexico. The helicopter crashed in Las Choapas, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, killing all seven passengers and the two pilots on board. Representatives of the pilots and five of the seven passengers (respectively, "Plaintiffs" and "Decedents") filed wrongful death actions against Bell and Bristow Helicopters, Inc. Subsequently, Plaintiffs amended their Complaints to add Bristow U.S., LLC as a Defendant. Plaintiffs have since dismissed both Bristow entities, leaving Bell as the sole Defendant.
B .Bell's Involvement
Bell is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas. Bell designs and manufactures many of its helicopters and their component parts in Texas. Bell manufactured the B-212 helicopter that was involved in the October 15, 2012 crash. Bell manufactures a component part for the B-212 known as the Inboard Fitting Strap ("Strap"). The Strap is a key component connecting each rotor blade to the main rotor hub. The purpose of the Strap is to permit the rotor blade to twist at the pilot's command for elevation and control. The rotor blade is secured to the Strap and main rotor hub by two fittings, the inboard strap fitting and the outboard strap fitting. When the inboard strap fitting fails in mid-flight, the centrifugal forces imparted on the rotor blade cause the rotor blade to detach and effectively be thrown from the helicopter. The helicopter cannot sustain flight with just one rotor blade. Mid-flight failure of an inboard strap fitting inevitably results in a helicopter crash.
C. The Investigation of the Crash
After the helicopter crash, Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (the Mexican Civil Aeronautics Authority, "DGAC") conducted an investigation of the crash. The DGAC investigation found no evidence to suggest that the crash was the result of human error. The investigation found that the "aircraft was certified, equipped, and maintained according to current approved regulations and procedures." Regarding the cause of the crash, the DGAC issued the following advisory opinion: "Collision with the ground when the blades of the principal rotor were lost during flight due to fracturing of the inboard strap fitting."
D. Procedural Posture
Plaintiffs, individually and as the personal representatives of the Decedents' respective estates, filed seven separate actions, which have since been consolidated. In May 2012, estates were opened with the Register of Wills for New Castle County in Delaware on behalf of the seven Decedents. On September 30, 2013, Plaintiffs moved for the application of Texas law to all issues of liability and damages in the consolidated actions. Also on September 30, 2013, Bell moved for a determination of the law applicable to Plaintiffs' remedies. Bell argues Mexican law is applicable to Plaintiffs' remedies.
Pursuant to "general conflict of laws principles, the forum court will apply its own conflict of laws rules to determine the governing law in a case." Delaware courts conduct a two-part inquiry to determine the applicable law. First, the Court determines if there is an actual conflict. "In determining whether there is an actual conflict, Delaware state courts . . . answer a single and simple query: does application of the competing laws yield the same result?" In the event of an actual conflict of law, Delaware courts apply the most significant relationship test from Section 145 ("Section 145") of the Restatement (Second) Conflict of Laws ("Restatement").
The Court looks to the motions individually. "Choice-of-law determinations must be made as to each issue when presented, not to the case as a whole."Plaintiffs ask the Court to apply Texas law to liability and damages. Bell asks the Court to apply Mexican federal law to Plaintiffs' remedies. The Court finds that with regard ...