Practice/Industry Group Overview
Experience counts in the air, and Sutherland’s Aviation team has a long history in all aspects of this complex and highly regulated industry.
From regulatory matters to crisis management, Sutherland’s Aviation practice represents airlines, aircraft manufacturers and industry financiers. We are familiar with the constantly shifting contours of the industry and know the risks and rewards of mergers and acquisitions, as well as their antitrust implications. We work with clients on leasing both in the United States and abroad. We understand local, state, federal and international tax matters. Our team has litigated aviation matters in numerous jurisdictions, understands the Montreal Treaty limitations on liability and is deeply knowledgeable about the day-to-day issues involved in aircraft registration, pilot citations, licensing and code sharing.
Sutherland regularly handles matters involving repair stations, fixed base operators, engine management companies and fractional aircraft ownership. Our experience also includes areas such as employment agreements under different jurisdictions, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the General Aviation Revitalization Act, outsourcing and systems integration and intellectual property.
This wide-ranging capacity enables Sutherland to represent not just carriers but also insurers, investors, fractional aircraft owners, lessors and service providers. It ensures that we effectively represent our clients with the Department of Homeland Security, the NTSB, the FAA and EPA. We also assist in achieving our client’s business objectives through tax planning and investment counseling. Should the worst occur, Sutherland has significant experience with both crisis management after catastrophic events and the litigation that follows.
Industry knowledge. Our lawyers keep up with the day-by-day changes in the aviation business. They know the issues of the day, and are positioned to anticipate the issues of tomorrow. Whether the price of aviation fuel rises and affects tax issues or a new round of consolidation will make leasing more attractive, our attorneys' up-to-date industry knowledge enables them to handle all our clients' needs with foresight and care.
Business-focused approach. Because our attorneys know the aviation business they can guide clients to the most cost-effective solution to their legal challenges. We focus as much on our clients' bottom line concerns as we do on their legal situation when determining the best course of action.
Breadth. The law affecting aviation clients encompasses a great many areas such as taxation and finance, product liability, personal injury and insurance issues. Because of our ability to draw on colleagues from other Sutherland practices, our aviation attorneys can provide a seamless, end-to-end service to our aviation clients.
Diverse client base. We serve all kinds of clients whose interests involve aviation. This includes insurers and financial entities as well as air carriers and aviation service providers. As a result, our attorneys see unique cases that add to their already broad and deep knowledge of the field, keeping them at the cutting edge.
Regulatory experience. Regulation of the aviation industry goes far beyond the FAA, and our attorneys are familiar with the practices, processes and concerns of the NTSB, EPA, DHS, SEC and IRS, as well as those of state and local authorities and international entities. We handle everything from pilot citations and aircraft registration to investigations of fuel market manipulation and intellectual property disputes.
Nuts and Bolts
Our practice regularly offers guidance and counsel to our aviation clients on:
- Product liability
- Intellectual property
- Labor and employment
- Local, state, federal and international tax
- Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
- U.S. and cross-border leasing
- Lease financing
- Outsourcing and systems integration
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Workers’ compensation
- Aircraft registration
- Pilot citations
- Licensing issues
- Code sharing
- Amortization of maintenance
Sutherland’s aviation practice group handles enforcement and certificate actions involving:
- Air carriers
- Repair stations
- Fixed base operators
- Engine management companies
- Fractional aircraft ownership
Sutherland has significant experience with crisis management after catastrophic events including:
- Handling challenges posed by media
- Mitigating exposure and reputational risk
- Providing testimony and evidence in connection with government investigations
Our practice handles widely diverse cases including:
- An international Part 121 carrier in national U.S. deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) litigation, including multidistrict litigation that resulted in leading decisions on Warsaw and federal preemption
- A helicopter manufacturer in one of the first applications of the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) decision remains a seminal case in the application of GARA
- A commercial airline in multidistrict litigation proceedings defending personal injury suits arising from aircraft crash resulting in multiple serious injuries
- Multiple national and international carriers in passenger claims involving clear air turbulence, security, racial discrimination, false imprisonment, boarding/disembarking events and assistance of handicapped, aged, infirm and minor passengers
- Helicopter manufacturers in accident and crash claims occurring in the United States, Latin America, Australia, Israel, China and the Middle East
- General aviation aircraft manufacturers in accident claims occurring in the United States
- A general aviation engine manufacturer in products liability, warranty, indemnity and commercial claims in the United States
- Component-part manufacturers in design and manufacture claims involving avionics, hydraulics, engine components, seats, safety restraints and accessories
- An international carrier and a regional carrier in runway overrun/excursions resulting in emergency evacuations and mass litigation
- Insurers of business or small jets involved in fatal crashes
- A foreign air traffic control agency in claims arising out of the crash of a foreign carrier
- A general aviation aircraft maintenance facility in property damage, warranty and loss-of-use claims arising out of alleged faulty maintenance
- An international carrier and its maintenance organization in civil penalty proceedings before the FAA
- A medical device manufacturer in the shipment and transport of hazardous biological materials
- An air charter operator in preparation of its contract-of-carriage and issues relating to international transport to volatile regions of the Middle East
- A developer in the permitting, design and construction of a private heliport
Aviation has grown increasingly complex with globalization, and Sutherland attorneys keep pace with all developments, enabling them to resolve every type of legal issue that arises.
Sutherland mediates favorable settlement of a passenger injury claim against a major airline.
Sutherland defended the air carrier against claims asserted by a passenger on a flight from New York to Houston during which the cabin pressure dropped. The passenger alleged traumatic ear injuries and subsequent mastoiditis as a result of the decompression. We settled the matter favorably at mediation.
Sutherland defends airline against allegations of invasion of privacy.
Sutherland settled invasion of privacy claims against an airline. The plaintiff alleged that the airline hacked into his email and personal computer in an effort to discredit plaintiff’s support of pending airline passenger rights legislation.
Sutherland favorably resolves engine damage claims under indemnity and other insured contract provisions.
Plaintiff alleged property damage to a 737-500 aircraft engine, claiming the damage was a result of on-call maintenance work. Sutherland settled the matter on terms favorable to our client.