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Pax on BA flight that burst into flames to sue in US court

December 1, 2015 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Passengers aboard a British Airways plane that burst into flames while taking off from Las Vegas in September are suing the makers of the plane and its engines in Chicago, their lawyers say.Stewarts Law, which describes itself as the UK’s largest litigation-only law firm, and its US counsel the Wisner Law Firm, have commenced legal action in Chicago against Boeing and GE. Stewarts Law specialises in high value and complex disputes.

The firms act on behalf of 65 passengers who suffered injury when a British Airways B777 suffered an uncontained catastrophic engine failure and fire on take-off at Las Vegas in September 2015, a statement from the law firm said. The lawsuit was lodged with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, where Boeing has its headquarters.

Head of aviation and travel law at Stewarts Law, James Healy-Pratt, told Reuters that US courts had previously been known to award in excess of USD 500,000 per passenger. If there ended up being 100 claimants, a payout of USD 100 million “would not be unthinkable”.

British Airways flight BA2276 from Las Vegas to London Gatwick suffered an uncontained engine failure during its take off roll, with shrapnel-like debris fracturing fuel and hydraulic lines and starting a fire in the main fuselage. The B777 was moments away from becoming airborne, but the crew made a successful emergency stop.

The international group of passengers, from the US, UK, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Germany, suffered both physical and psychological injuries in the incident and are seeking damages for pain, suffering, emotional stress as well as financial losses.

Stewarts Law and its US Counsel, the Wisner Law Firm, claim that at the time of the accident the Boeing aircraft, equipped with GE engines, was defective and unreasonably dangerous “in a number of important respects”. They allege that the components within the High Pressure (HP) Compressor Section of the GE90-85B engine were known by Boeing and GE to be subject to fracture and failure and that this unsafe condition could lead to an uncontained engine failure with damage to the airplane and catastrophic results.

One of the passengers who is part of the US lawsuit is Dominic Worthington, from London.

“As the plane was accelerating down the runway, there was a loud bang, and a sudden emergency stop. First of all the crew told us to stay seated but I remember people then started screaming ‘there’s a fire, there’s a fire!’ 

“I remember looking out the window and seeing smoke filling the air and I thought the whole aircraft was going to erupt in flames. We were then quickly ordered to evacuate. I remember an incredibly brave lady with a baby struggling to get off the plane quickly. Everyone was trying to help each other off the plane. As soon as we were off the plane I remember everyone running from the plane and looking back to see flames engulfing the aircraft, rising high above it. I was sure that if the flames reached the fuel lines then the whole aircraft would explode and we would all be killed so I ran even harder. It felt like we had a matter of seconds before it could have escalated into a disaster. 

“I still suffer from the incident and have sleepless nights, flashbacks and stress. It’s difficult to get over something like this, you just don’t expect it would ever happen to you. Despite my struggle to get over the incident I know we are all very lucky not to have been more seriously injured.”

James Healy-Pratt, head of aviation and travel at Stewarts Law said:

“Our clients are not critical of BA and feel that the pilots and cabin crew performed heroically in guiding the aircraft to an emergency stop, and then evacuating all occupants away from the burning aircraft in difficult circumstances. 

“However the interim report from the NTSB clearly accepts that there was an uncontained failure within the High Pressure compressor section of the GE-90 engine, which caused serious damage to the British Airways Boeing 777 at a critical time during its take-off roll. Given the justified safety concerns of the FAA back in 2011 over this component of the GE-90 engine, our clients deserve the real truth of how this failure happened. 

“The passengers we represent are therefore prepared to take on Boeing and GE in Chicago State Court, which is undoubtedly the most appropriate jurisdiction for their case.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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