As the consumer and commercial drone industry continues to fly higher, it’s inevitable that UAV-related lawsuits and crime will also rise. According to a top drone attorney, the legal skies are choked with a variety of litigation and trials.
“There has been a wide range of drone-related cases in the last couple of years ranging from flamethrowers mounted on drones to a drone crashing into a wedding guest,” aviation attorney Jonathan Rupprecht said in a recent blog post. And Rupprecht should know – in addition to handling several cases related to drones, he has amassed experience as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author.
The Florida-based attorney recently compiled an exhaustive listing of current and adjudicated civil and criminal matters related to drones – from class-action litigation against the FAA to alleged “peeping Tom” criminal complaints.
Rupprecht notes that his criminal case round-up only includes instances in which a prosecutor opted to file charges. “There are many more individuals who have been arrested for flying a drone but the prosecutors for whatever reason did not choose to file charges,” he noted.
“Most of the criminal cases tend to be prosecuted under the state law equivalent of careless and reckless endangerment or something along those lines.” Rupprecht said, adding that a few cases involve allegations of illegally exportation of military-grade drone technology.
The world’s largest drone manufacturer, DJI, also shows up on the legal radar – the company is taking on the role of plaintiff in a few patent cases and as defendant in a class-action suit. For example, DJI is current embroiled in a patent infringement claim against competitor Yuneec, asserting that the company infringes on two DJI patents: DJI’s U.S. Patent Numbers 9,164,506, titled “Systems and methods for target tracking,” and 9,280,038, titled “Interchangeable Mounting Platform.”
What follows is an excerpted listing of pending civil and criminal cases from Rupprecht’ s more detailed legal roll-call. For the full list, visit his legal blog. Note: The following content was written by Rupprecht:
Drone Litigation in Federal Courts
Federal Circuit Court
- Taylor v. FAA I (Really 3 cases. Court consolidated them along.) – Adjudicated. Taylor beat the FAA. D.C. Circuit held the drone registration rules were illegally created.
- EPIC v. FAA II (2016) – Currently being litigated. It has been consolidated with the fourth Taylor case.
Federal District Court
- Reichert v. FAA – Currently being litigated. Class action lawsuit against the FAA seeking to destroy the FAA registry and get the money back to all those who have registered.
- Boggs v. Meredith case in the federal Western District Court of Kentucky which was dismissed. Boggs’ drone was shot down by Meredith. Boggs sued in federal court claiming the drone was in navigable airspace (which means he was not trespassing in Meredith’s airspace) and was entitled to compensation. The court dismissed the case because the court did not have the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the case and the case should be resolved in Kentucky state court.
- Sives v. DJI – Class Action lawsuit against DJI regarding software update that allegedly damaged the drones.
- Justice Laub v. Nicholas Horbaczewski et al – Laub alleges that Horbaczewski breached a contract. They are demanding $9,900,000 from Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. Both Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. have sued in New York state court asking for a declaration that Laub is not an owner of Drone Racing League.
- United States v. Porrata – Defendant was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine for scamming investors with their sham drone manufacturing company.
Drone Litigation in State Courts
- Telling v. DJI – Class action lawsuit against DJI in Los Angeles Superior Court
- City of San Francisco v. Lily – The district attorney for San Francisco is suing the company Lily for false advertising and unfair business practices.
- City of Los Angeles v. Arvel Chapel – Not Guilty. Criminal prosecution by the city under their city ordinance. The jury held Arvel not guilty.
- Joe v. McBay – Small claims case. McBay shot down Joe’s drone. The judge ordered McBay to pay for the shot-down drone.
- Pituch v. Perfect Event Inc. – Pi Kappa Phi of the University of Southern California hired Perfect Event to throw a party. One of the two defendants hired the drone operator who crashed the drone into the plaintiff’s head. She is suing both defendants for negligence and premises liability.