Compensation lawsuit follows Southwest Airline passenger death

Date: Apr 30, 2018

A passenger on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 has launched a compensation claim against the companies involved for alleged psychological and physical injuries she suffered on the fateful April flight.

Travelling from New York to Dallas, the aircraft's engine failed about 20 minutes into the journey, causing engine debris to break a window and suck out passenger Jennifer Riordan. Fellow patrons attempted to pull Ms Riordan back into the plane, but she had suffered serious head trauma and died.

Lilia Chavez, who was seated three rows behind Ms Riordan, is now pursuing damages for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, emotional distress and bodily injuries due to witnessing the accident.

Ms Chavez named a number of organisations in her lawsuit: Southwest Airlines, Safran SA, General Electric Aviation and CFM International. The latter company manufactured the engine and is a joint venture between Safran SA and General Electric Aviation.

Did the airline and manufacturers risk passenger safety?

The plaintiff's lawyers claim the organisations placed passenger safety at risk by proceeding with the flight, despite knowing the aircraft's engine was in a dangerous condition.

Since the accident, Southwest has stated: "We can't comment on any pending litigation. The safety and security of our employees and customers is our highest priority at all times."

While the incident occurred on a domestic flight in the US, the case could have ramifications for flight injury claims in this country. Australian courts have previously relied on decisions in the US to set a precedent for similar accidents closer to home.

More than 100 countries, including the US and Australia, are signatories to the Montreal Convention, which governs injuries sustained on international flights. The convention is used in conjunction with national laws such as the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959, as well as state-specific civil liability legislation.

Echoes of tragic Sydney flight in 1989

The Flight 1380 catastrophe shares similarities with United Airlines Flight 811 from Honolulu to Sydney on February 24 1989.

Locks on the plane's cargo door failed, flinging it open with enough force to create a hole ten metres across in the fuselage. Nine passengers were sucked out of the aircraft and died.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, news of the incident on Flight 1380 in April brought back horrific memories for the Hotz family, who were passengers on United Airlines Flight 811.

Paul and Susan Hotz were travelling with six-year-old daughter Georgia at the time. They emphasised the mental health effects of experiencing such a traumatic event.

"We were all very fragile I had to do a lot of work. There was a lot of [psychological] damage, and people don't see that side of it," Susan said.

Have you suffered mental or physical injuries during a flight? Please contact an experienced personal injury specialist at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.