New Jersey Airport Not Liable for Plane Damaged by Car

May 28, 2010

An aviation firm that parks planes at an airport in New Jersey is not liable for damages to an aircraft struck by the car of sleeping driver, a state appeals court has ruled.

The suit stemmed from a 2006 incident at Teterboro Airport in which a driver lost control of his car, plowed through a chain link and smashed into the right side of an airplane that was parked on a tarmac 75 feet from the road.

The plane’s owners, Potomac Aviation Services, promptly sued the airport operator, First Aviation Services, its ground services manager and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, alleging they were negligent in installing fencing and picking the location to park the plane.

Among its claims, Potomac alleged that defendants failed to install proper barricading and take other precautions that would have prevented vehicles from striking planes parked on the Teterboro tarmac.

In this case, the vehicle had been traveling along Industrial Avenue, a two-lane country route with a 25-miles-per-hour speed limit that runs along the backside of the airport.

At issue were federal and industry guidelines for the type of materials – specifically fencing – that were used to cordon off the airport property. A chain link fence was used along the section that borders the road, and Potomac Aviation had argued that the material was insufficient to prevent the accident.

A lower court judge had already rejected that argument, however, and the appeals court affirmed that decision.

“There is nothing presented that in common sense or fairness convinces us that defendants’ duty to exercise reasonable care over plaintiff’s plane or to provide a reasonably safe place for it to be parked included an obligation to install guide rail or other protective devices,” the judges concluded.

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