Categories of Preemption: Express vs. Conflict vs. Field — Passenger’s State Law Personal Injury Claim for Negligence Against Air Carrier Not Preempted by Federal Aviation Act

From Elassaad v. Independence Air, Inc., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 13721 (3d Cir. July 6, 2010):

Joseph Elassaad appeals from an order granting summary judgment in favor of Independence Air, Inc., with respect to his negligence claim for injuries sustained when he fell while disembarking from an airplane at the Philadelphia International Airport. His appeal requires us to consider the extent to which the Federal Aviation Act ("Aviation Act"), 49 U.S.C. § 40101 et seq., preempts state law concerning tort claims arising from an air carrier's conduct in overseeing the disembarkation of passengers. Although we stated in Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363, 365 (3d Cir. 1999), that the Aviation Act preempts "the entire field of aviation safety" from state regulation, we hold that the "field of aviation safety" does not include a flight crew's oversight of the disembarkation of passengers once a plane has come to a complete stop at its destination. Abdullah therefore does not control the instant case. We also hold that the Aviation Act and the regulations promulgated thereunder do not preempt state tort law with respect to such negligence claims. Moreover, we conclude that the federally enacted Air Carrier Access Act ("ACAA"), 49 U.S.C. § 41705 et seq., and its implementing regulations do not control the standard of care from the standpoint of airline safety. As a result, we conclude that the standard of care in Elassaad's negligence claim is not preempted by federal law, and we will reverse the grant of summary judgment for Independence and remand for further proceedings. ***

Courts have recognized three species of preemption: express preemption, conflict preemption, and field preemption. Express preemption requires that Congress's intent to preempt be "'explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose.'" Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S. Ct. 2608, 120 L. Ed. 2d 407 (1992) (citation omitted). Conflict preemption occurs when state law "actually conflicts with federal law," such that "it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal requirements, or where state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." English v. Gen. Elec. Co., 496 U.S. 72, 79, 110 S. Ct. 2270, 110 L. Ed. 2d 65 (1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Field preemption occurs when a field is "reserved for federal regulation, leaving no room for state regulation," and "congressional intent to supersede state laws [is] clear and manifest." Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 336 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Both statutes and regulations can preempt state law.

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