Disciplined in Sophisticated Defense and Insurance Litigation

Laura Heft is an Associate in Butler’s Chicago office.  Her primary focus is First-Party Property claims, related Coverage Litigation, Liability, and Aviation Defense Litigation.  Laura has experience litigating in both state and federal courts, and providing clients with timely, practical advice on business and litigation issues.  Laura is admitted to practice in the state and federal courts of Illinois and Indiana.

Before joining Butler, Laura clerked for Indiana State Court judges and practiced in financing and leasing transactions and class action litigation.  She has experience handling all phases of litigation including large e-discovery, depositions, and trials.

Laura received her Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Cornell College in International Relations and French.  She went on to graduate from Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law with her Juris Doctorate, cum laude.  Laura received her L.L.M. in Air and Space Law, magna cum laude, from the University of Mississippi.  While working towards her L.L.M., Laura gained experience at the FAA Regional Office working on enforcement actions. 

Laura is also an FAA-licensed private pilot and a United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association-licensed hang glider pilot.  She frequently writes on topics in aviation, and she is a member of the Experimental Aviation Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and the Aviation Insurance Association.

Additionally, Laura has significant international experience, including studying French in Paris during her Bachelor’s studies, volunteering with Camp Adventure in Lakenheath, England, and working with the Helsinki Foundation in Poland to recommend involvement in cases pending in the European Court of Human Rights.

Admissions

  • Illinois
  • Indiana

Education

  • Nicolet Technical College
    Associates of the Arts in Culinary Arts
  • Cornell College
    Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French
  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law
    Juris Doctorate
  • University of Mississippi
    L.L.M. in Air and Space Law

Memberships

  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association - AOPA
  • Aviation Insurance Association – AIA
  • Defense Research Institute (DRI)
  • Experimental Aviation Association- EAA
  • United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association - USHPA

Courts

  • Illinois Courts (Northern District)
  • Indiana Courts (Northern District)
  • Indiana Courts (Southern District)
January 26, 2018 PUBLICATIONPreemption In Aviation Product Liability Cases

Preemption is still a valid defense for manufacturers in aviation products liability cases.  A recent case out of the District Court in Pennsylvania, Sikkelee v. AVCO Corp., No. 4:07-CV-00886, 2017 WL 3317545 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 3, 2017), on reconsideration, No. 4:07-CV-00886, 2017 WL 3310953 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 3, 2017, granted judgment against a plaintiff’s products liability claim alleging, in part, negligent design because the claims were conflict preempted and could not proceed.  The case adds a new nuance to existing preemption law in aviation cases relating to aviation safety and products liability.

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Blog Posts

January 18, 2018 BLOG POSTEighty Years After Earhart: Congress Moves to Motivate and Facilitate Women In Aviation

The aviation industry is in dire need of a future workforce. This industry is already suffering from a shortage of qualified individuals to work in all sectors of aviation. For instance, the Forbes article here states that the gap between supply and demand for aviation mechanics is projected to be at 9 percent by 2027.   

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August 23, 2017 BLOG POST"It's Not Old, It's A Classic!": Risk in Aging Aircraft with GARA Protecting Manufacturers

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 (“GARA”) was a byproduct of aging aircraft, rising costs, and tort liability in the United States.  Congress was concerned that aircraft manufacturers were being devastated by liability costs for accidents occurring long after the planes left the manufacturer.  These liability costs drove up the price for aircraft beyond what the market would bear, and general aviation experienced a sharp decline.  The General Aviation Manufacturers Association reports the total U.S.-manufactured general aviation airplane shipments went from a high of 17,811 in 1978 to a low of 929 in 1994.  As a result many manufacturers stopped making certain model aircraft, including Cessna which ceased production of all piston aircraft in 1986. 

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July 14, 2017 BLOG POSTNew Laws passed in Florida and Oregon add to Varying State Drone Regulations

More and more states are adopting individual rules for UAS operations within their borders. These rules vary from state to state.  Congress wanted to take up the issue and regulate UAS federally, but stakeholders including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Drone Manufacturers Alliance, the National Business Aviation Association, and the Commercial Drone Alliance, among others, are encouraging Congress to defer regulation of UAS pending the report and recommendations of the Drone Advisory Committee, the “DAC”.

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April 05, 2017 BLOG POSTA Federal Court in Kentucky Shoots Down Drone Airspace Case

The Western District of Kentucky recently granted a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, determining that there is no federal question jurisdiction when a claim is brought for trespass to chattels and declaratory judgment where a drone is flown above an individual’s property. 

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March 23, 2017 BLOG POSTNebraska Supreme Court Rules that an Insurer Can Depreciate Labor in Determining Actual Cash Value

Property policies typically provide, if there is coverage, that the insured can recover for the costs to repair or replace the property damaged by loss.  But when an insured does not repair or replace the damaged property (or until such repairs are made), the insured is only entitled to the actual cash value of the property.  The calculation of actual cash value varies state to state, but generally courts either define it as replacement cost less depreciation or courts use the broad evidence rule. 

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Events

January 20, 2018 EVENTExperimental Aviation Association Chapter 260 Meeting - Pilots: Violations, Investigations, and Administrative Procedure

Laura Heft from Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig will be presenting in Monee, IL at the Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 260 meeting on January 20, 2018, at 9:00 am.

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Key Points
Practice Area CASE TYPE
  • Aviation
  • Bad Faith
  • Coverage - Business Interruption
  • Coverage - First Party Property
  • Coverage - Homeowner's
  • General Liability - Coverage