Scott Becker of Miami, Florida is suing American Airlines for physical and psychological injuries he allegedly sustained during an emergency evacuation of a Boeing 767 that caught fire at O’Hare International Airport before its scheduled takeoff for Miami on October 28, 2016.
In a lawsuit filed on June 13 in Miami, Becker, 47, alleges the airline failed to ensure the jetliner was properly maintained and negligently failed “to provide proper assistance, supervision and instruction in the evacuation.” The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages including legal fees for “personal and bodily injuries, both physical and psychological in nature,” pain and suffering, disability, medical bills, lost earnings, and past and future emotional distress.
A report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued on the day of the accident said the aircraft suffered an “uncontained engine failure.” The failure caused a fuel leak that sparked a fire under the jetliner’s right wing. Of the 161 passengers and 9 crew members aboard the aircraft, one passenger sustained serious injuries and 19 suffered minor injuries during the emergency evacuation.
Becker’s attorney, Joseph Slama of Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock & Liberman, said his client sustained serious injuries to his shoulder and back when he was thrown back and knocked down by the engine exhaust during the evacuation. Becker, whose employment requires frequent travel, relives the trauma every time he flies.
American Airlines responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
“We are proud of our pilots, flight attendants and other team members who responded quickly on Oct. 28, 2016, to take care of our customers and colleagues under very challenging circumstances . . . We are confident that once the investigation is complete, any safety recommendations issued by the NTSB will enhance aviation safety worldwide.”
This is the second lawsuit involving the evacuation of an aircraft that caught fire reported this month. Another lawsuit was filed in Broward Circuit Court in June by 77 passengers who were aboard a 2015 Dynamic Airways flight to Caracas at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport that was evacuated after the aircraft’s left engine caught fire.
The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount in damages, claims several passengers were injured during the evacuation and that the aircraft caught fire because of “negligence and willful misconduct” by Dynamic Airways. Some of the claims may reportedly reach into the millions because of the severity of the injuries sustained.
“All had some injuries . . . and the anxiety, the nightmares [and] fear of flying, that only gets worse,” plaintiff attorney Steven Marks of Podhurst Orseck told the press. “Those people will be scarred forever.”
A report by the NTSB concluded that a critical fuel line mechanism near the left engine had been disconnected, and that was where the fire started. The jetliner had reportedly been in storage for more than two years before Dynamic Airlines leased it in 2015. The aircraft’s logbook showed no maintenance was done to its fuel line coupling assembly before the Caracas flight was scheduled. Of the 90 passengers and 11 crew members on the flight, one passenger suffered serious injuries and 21 sustained minor injuries during the evacuation.
“This whole [accident] might have been avoided if the proper procedures were followed and the plane evacuated where it was on the runway instead of trying to bring it back to the gate, which is when the fire broke out,” said Marks.