Southwest Airlines Sued Over April 17 Plane Accident

On April 17, 2018, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 traveling from New York to Dallas experienced an engine explosion in midair causing an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Preliminary findings of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation determined that metal fatigue caused a hidden crack in a fan blade to break causing the CFM56-7B engine to explode, which tore off its cowling (or external cover) in what the industry calls an “Uncontained engine failure.” The debris from the engine shattered a window, causing passenger Jennifer Riordan of New Mexico to get partially sucked out of the plane due to a decrease in pressure. Other passengers were able to pull her back in, however, Riordan died at a Philadelphia hospital shortly afterwards.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an airworthiness order requiring that certain CFM56-7B engines have their fan blades go through an ultrasonic examination when they achieve a certain number of takeoffs and landings.

Lilia Chavez, a passenger on the flight, who was sitting three rows behind Riordan, filed a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines and CFM International, a French engine manufacturer that is a joint venture business between General Electric and Safran, a French aerospace company, that manufactured the engine.

Chavez asserted that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression after witnessing the “pain and horror” of the plane accident. The lawsuit claims that Southwest failed to properly examine or maintain the engine and fan blades before the flight that would have prevented the catastrophic failure of the engine. The suit also asserts that a previous Southwestern aircraft experienced a similar incident in August 2016 when an engine of a Southwest flight traveling from New Orleans to Orlando exploded causing the fan blade to break off. The lawsuit adds that the engine had defectively designed blades that could not survive the vibrations of the flight and the thermal or other stresses that occur in the normal operation of the engine.

The complaint accuses defendants of “willful, wanton and outrageous misconduct” because they were aware of the deficiencies of the engine after the 2016 incident and yet they kept operating business as usual.  The product liability litigation alleged:

“Rather than protect the safety of plaintiff and those who also were fare-paying customers, the defendants’ misconduct placed profits and business over the safety of its customers and continued to operate these engines even though there was confirmation that an unsafe condition existed which had not been corrected since the failure that befell the 2016 incident involving Flight 3472.”

The plane accident ended the U.S. aviation industry’s nine consecutive years of commercial airline flights without a fatality. Although Southwest Airlines did not comment on the lawsuit, it did make a statement concerning the plane accident: “Our focus remains on working with the NTSB to support their investigation. We can’t comment on any pending litigation. The safety and security of our employees and customers is our highest priority at all times.”

Southwest Airlines has had two additional incidents since the April 17th accident. On May 2, a Newark bound flight from Chicago made an emergency landing in Cleveland due to a cracked window that happened in midair. Most recently on Saturday, May 12, Flight 861 heading from Denver to Dallas made an emergency landing 30 minutes outside of Dallas when the cabin starting losing pressure.

Although airline accidents are not occurring at the rate they have been in the past, people are still suffering traumas due to these incidences. Airlines responsible for accidents should be held accountable. If you or a loved one died as a result of a plane accident or suffered physical or emotional injury, please give us a call at (855) 551-1019. Our staff includes knowledgeable product liability and personal injury lawyers who can help guide you through a lawsuit. We can help you seek justice after an aviation accident.