David Sikkelee was killed when a Cessna aircraft he was piloting crashed after taking off from North Carolina’s Transylvania County Airport. The plane had a Lycoming engine. In the lawsuit, his wife, Jill Sikkelee, alleged that the aircraft lost power due to defects in the design of the engine and its carburetor.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had issued Lycoming a type of certificate for the engine, certifying that the design performs properly and satisfies federal regulations.
Jill Sikkelee brought strict liability and negligence claims against Lycoming alleging design defects. On appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court for the 3rd Circuit, it was held that her state-law claims were not barred based on the doctrine of field preemption. On remand, the federal district court concluded that the claims were conflict-preempted and that Lycoming was entitled to summary judgment on Sikkelee’s strict liability and negligence claims based on Pennsylvania law.