BOYLE v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
86-492
Petitioner 
Boyle
Respondent 
United Technologies Corp.
Advocates
(Reargued the cause for the petitioner)
(Reargued the cause for the respondent)
(Reargued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Following the death of US Marine helicopter pilot David A. Boyle, Delbert Boyle sued the helicopter's manufacturer ("Sikorsky") for defectively designing its copilot emergency escape hatch. On appeal from a state-law based jury verdict favoring Boyle, the Court of Appeals found that Sikorsky could not be held liable under Virginia tort law for any design flaws since it met the requirements of the "military contractor defense." Boyle appealed; the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Question 

Are state tort laws, holding independent military contractors liable for injuries caused by their design flaws, valid?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for United Technologies Corp., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No. In a 5-to4 decision, the Court held that despite the absence of specific legislation immunizing government contractors from liability for design flaws, questions of their liability are of unique federal concern. As such, to the extent that it holds military contractors liable for design flaws, state law may significantly conflict with federal interests thereby requiring its displacement. The Court added that in the instant case, such displacement is appropriate since the United States approved the helicopter's specifications, the equipment met those specifications, and Sikorsky warned the government of possible dangers in the helicopter's use. Finally, since the Court of Appeals' use of the "military contractor defense" failed to specify if a reasonable jury could have found for Boyle, the Court vacated its judgment and remanded.

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BOYLE v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 13 December 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_492>.
BOYLE v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_492 (last visited December 13, 2014).
"BOYLE v. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed December 13, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1987/1987_86_492.