The Minnesota Supreme Court has determined that an airplane manufacturer’s duty to warn “does not include a duty to provide training to pilots who purchase an airplane from the manufacturer” and that a pilot may not recover in tort when the manufacturer’s duty was imposed by contract only. Glorvigen v. Cirrus Design Corp., Nos. A10-1242, -1243, -1246, -1247 (Minn., decided July 18, 2012). While the small plane purchase included a flight training program, the pilot who was killed with a passenger in a plane crash did not allegedly receive, as part of the program, training on the specific emergency situation that arose and purportedly caused the crash. The matter was, however, covered in written materials and PowerPoint slides, which the pilot viewed.  

According to the court majority, the company adequately discharged its duty to warn without providing training, and, even if it assumed a duty to provide the flight lesson at issue, it was part of the purchase price and arose from contract. Under Minnesota law, a party cannot recover in negligence based on the breach of a duty that does not arise independent of a contract. The two dissenting justices were loath to usurp the jury’s role and would not have held that “as a matter of law no consumer product exists for which a supplier is required to give any warning to consumers beyond written instructions, no matter how dangerous the product, and regardless of any jury findings to the contrary.”

According to the court majority, the company adequately discharged its duty to warn without providing training, and, even if it assumed a duty to provide the flight lesson at issue, it was part of the purchase price and arose from contract.