PHILADELPHIA – A woman aboard a Southwest Airlines flight last spring during which one passenger was partially sucked out of the plane, eventually leading to her death and precipitating an emergency landing to take place at Philadelphia International Airport, has sued the airline and the plane’s manufacturers for damages.
Laurie Rogers of Oklahoma filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 29 versus Southwest Airlines of Dallas, General Electric Company of Boston, Safran S.A. of Paris, France and CFM International, Inc. of Irving, Texas.
According to the lawsuit, on April 17, Rogers was a passenger on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which left LaGuardia Airport in New York City en route to Dallas.
“Approximately 20 minutes after Flight 1380 took off and was flying in the airspace over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the left CFM56-7B engine suffered a catastrophic uncontained failure of a fan blade causing unexpected and sudden pitch and/or bank movements of the aircraft and a resulting controlled rapid emergency decent. Debris from the uncontained engine failure struck the aircraft’s fuselage and shattered a passenger’s window causing rapid depressurization,” the suit states.
Rogers alleges that the engine failure and breaking of the plane window caused “rapid depressurization, severe vibrations, and the cabin environment to become a whirlwind of airflow and airborne debris” which struck her and obstructed her breathing, placing her “within the zone of danger.”
“[Rogers] experienced physical impact from the gyrations and abrupt movements of the aircraft and the rapid depressurization and environmental conditions within the cabin, suffered physical injury to her ears due to the rapid depressurization, was aware that one passenger had been partially ejected from the aircraft and had been severely or fatally injured, and was otherwise placed in immediate risk of physical harm. This environment exacerbated Ms. Rogers panic and horror and in the midst of the violent conditions within the cabin,” the complaint reads.
Due to these catastrophic events, Flight 1380 was diverted to Philadelphia International Airport where it made an emergency landing and passengers left the airplane – and Rogers claimed the plane’s passengers were “encountered by a team of people actually or ostensibly working on behalf of Southwest [Airlines] whose questions and treatment of passengers revealed a failure to account for the shock that these innocent victims were experiencing.”
The passenger who had been partially ejected from the plane through its broken window, 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, was removed from the aircraft alive and in critical condition, but later pronounced dead at an area hospital.
The suit explains that photographs of the failed left engine that were taken and published by news reports revealed “a missing fan blade with reports that the fracture surfaces showed signs of metal fatigue," a very similar circumstance to an earlier incident that had taken place on Southwest Airlines Flight 3472 in August 2016.
“As a direct and proximate cause of the traumatic events that befell Flight 1380, plaintiff Laurie Rogers suffered and continues to suffer, severe personal injuries including but not limited to: Physical injury to her ears and inner ear structures, vertigo, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, emotional distress, depression, personal injuries to her body including the physical manifestations of the emotional and mental trauma she experienced and continues to suffer,” the suit says.
Rogers alleges the defendants failed to properly inspect the plane for mechanical defects and ensure that it was safe for air travel, in the process risking the lives of all of the plane’s passengers.
Rogers’ litigation follows the lawsuit filed in the same court by fellow passenger Lila Chavez, which claims she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath of the incident.
For counts of negligence, breach of contract and warranties, strict liability, breach of express and implied warranties and willful, wanton and outrageous conduct, the plaintiff is seeking damages for the full amount permitted by law including compensatory damages and punitive damages in light of the facts, law and evidence, and also seeks any and all interest, costs and attorney’s fees allowable, in addition to a trial by jury.
The plaintiff is represented by Bradley J. Stoll of Katzman Lampert & Stoll, in Wayne.
The defendants have not yet secured legal counsel, according to court records.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:18-cv-02778
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at email@example.com