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Copyright (c) 1994 Southern Methodist University School of Law
Journal of Air Law and Commerce


May, 1994 / June, 1994

59 J. Air L. & Com. 815


Colin P. Cahoon *


THE GOVERNMENT contractor defense was recognized and adopted by the United States Supreme Court in 1988 in Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. 1 Since that time, the government contractor defense, also referred to as the Boyle defense, has become a versatile shield against liability employed by government contractors defending a wide range of tort lawsuits. Federal courts, otherwise faced with increasingly crowded dockets, have readily applied the Boyle defense in dismissing large numbers of tort-based lawsuits at the summary judgment stage. The Boyle defense has become a major impediment to the plaintiff's bar in the field of aviation litigation, and lawyers have expended serious efforts attempting to punch a hole through this legal shield recently brandished with impunity by manufacturing defendants.

The Boyle case itself has been much maligned by those who disagree with its outcome, 2 misunderstood by those with no experience with the government procurement process, 3 and factually distorted by writers who know little about the underlying facts of the case. The following article is intended to clear up some of these misconceptions. More important, however, the article is meant to act as a guide to government contractors and manufacturers when faced with tort litigation in the future. 4

This article is broken down into five major substantive sections. The first section provides the reader with a behind-the-scenes perspective of the Boyle case itself. This section recounts the circumstances surrounding the crash and details the resulting litigation from the perspective of eyewitnesses and participants.

The ...
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