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Boeing Immune for Osprey Aircraft Crash That Killed Marine

Nov. 4, 2019, 3:28 PM

The Boeing Co., Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., and Eaton Aerospace LLC are immune from suit as government contractors for a May 2015 crash of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft that killed a marine at Bellows Air Force Base in Hawaii, the Ninth Circuit ruled.

The companies established the government contractor defense by showing they conformed to the government specifications for the design feature at issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said.

The estate of Lance Corporal Matthew J. Determan alleged that the crash was caused by the failure of the plane’s engine air particle separator (EAPS), which was meant to prevent engine ingestion of sand and particulates into the engine compressor and rotor blades.

The estate sued Boeing and Bell as the designers and manufacturers of the plane and Eaton as the designer of the EAPS system.

The companies established the first element of the contractor defense—that the government approved reasonably precise specifications, the appeals court said.

The government didn’t merely approve performance standards, but approved the detail specification and the final, top-level drawing of the aircraft, which incorporate by reference design specifications for the EAPS system, the court said.

The companies established the second element of the defense too—that the equipment conformed to the government-approved specifications, the court said.

The undisputed evidence shows the government certified that the Osprey, including its EAPS system, conformed with the design specifications, the court said.

Judges Jacqueline H. Nguyen, John B. Owens and Eric N. Vitaliano issued the Nov. 1 ruling.

Beasley Allen Crow Methvin Portis & Miles PC represented the estate.

Perkins Coie LLP represented Boeing.

Law Offices of Corlis J. Chang, LLC represented Bell Helicopter.

Cades Schutte LLP represented Eaton Aerospace LLC.

The case is Determan v. The Boeing Co., 2019 BL 420633, 9th Cir., No. 18-15515, unpublished 11/1/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at; Patrick L. Gregory at