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General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (GARA) Not Applicable in Ontario Action

Thorne v. Hudson, 2016 ONSC 5507 

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 ("GARA") is an American federal statute that imposes an 18-year final limitation period on all civil actions against certain aviation manufacturers. In dismissing a recent summary judgment brought by an American engine manufacturer, the Ontario Superior Court determined that GARA did not apply to prevent the claims against the manufacturer.

The Ontario litigation arose as a result of a multi-fatality aircraft accident during a flight from Oshawa, Ontario to the United States. The aircraft was outfitted with two engines which were manufactured in the United States 39 years prior to the date of loss. During the planned flight one of the engines failed, and the aircraft crashed in Dunkirk, New York. A number of civil actions were brought in Ontario naming the pilots, the engine manufacturer and various aircraft maintenance companies as defendants. The engine manufacturer brought a summary judgment motion on the basis that the claims against it were barred pursuant to GARA given the age of the failed engine.

Both the engine manufacturer and the responding defendants filed expert evidence regarding GARA and whether it would apply to an Ontario action. Before deciding whether GARA could apply to an Ontario action, the motion judge first had to determine what law applied, American or Ontario.

The essence of the engine manufacturer's position was that the combined facts of the crash location and place of manufacture in the United States should prompt the application of the lex loci delecti rule to select American law as applicable. The position of the responding parties was that the claim against the engine manufacturer was founded on negligent misrepresentations received and relied upon in Ontario, namely in the form of allegedly faulty instructions contained in bulletins and manuals issued by the engine manufacturer from time to time. Therefore Canadian law should apply and not GARA.

The Court agreed with the responding parties. In following the reasoning in Air Canada v McDonnell Corp., [1989] 1 SCR 1554, the Court pinpointed negligent misrepresentation as the crux of the claims against the engine manufacturer and not negligent manufacturing. As such, the law of Ontario applied and GARA was not applicable. Accordingly, the claim against the engine manufacturer was not statute-barred, and the motion for summary judgment was dismissed.

The Court's decision is being appealed by the engine manufacturer.