Another lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court against The Boeing Company related to a fatal 2013 plane crash in California has been removed to federal court, joining 78 similar suits.
Case No. 1:15-CV-06412 marks the 19th lawsuit surrounding the crash filed in Cook County. Of the remaining cases, 51 were filed in the Northern District of California, seven were filed in other California courts, one was filed in Maine and another in Texas. Five of the cases have already been dismissed. As the cases have been filed, they have been removed from their original courts and consolidated in multidistrict litigation proceedings ongoing in the Northern District of California.
The litigation stems from the crash on July 6, 2013, of a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft operated by Asiana Airlines. Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had just completed an 11-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean from Seoul, South Korea, to San Francisco, and was on its approach to the San Francisco International Airport when its airspeed dropped below safe levels. According to court documents, the pilots worked furiously to bring the plane back up to speed, but at that point the plane was flying too low and too slow to avoid a collision. It hit the seawall at the south end of the airport, and a chunk of the aircraft’s tail fell into San Francisco Bay.
There were 291 passengers and 16 crew on board, according to court documents. The crash caused three deaths and 49 others suffered severe injuries.
According to data from the aircraft’s flight recorder, at eight seconds before impact, the plane was 95 feet over San Francisco Bay, traveling 26 knots slower than the correct airspeed on approach. The engines were at idle, and the pilots moved the engine levers into the full thrust position, but the engines had not reached full thrust by the time of impact. After reviewing the data, an aeronautical engineer at Boeing and an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board both concluded by that time, the plane was too low and too slow to avoid an impact.
In a notice of removal filed July 22, Boeing states the Seventh Circuit ruled earlier in the month that removal and consolidation of the cases under federal admiralty jurisdiction is proper. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation had begun multidistrict proceedings in California in December 2013, providing an avenue for consolidation.
Admiralty jurisdiction applies when injuries suffered on land were caused by a vessel on navigable water. Though the incident involved an aircraft, and not a water vessel, Boeing argues that it still satisfies the three criteria for admiralty jurisdiction to apply. The plane had completed a transoceanic voyage, which is a “traditional maritime activity.” The drop in speed that caused the crash occurred over navigable water. And, maritime activity was disrupted when San Francisco International Airport closed all of its runways for about four hours, disrupting other transoceanic flights.
This most recent Cook County lawsuit was filed by 11 individuals: Bo Hyun Kim, Jeong Suk Lee, Sungho Ahn, Kuehee Shin, Jiwon Hwang, Seungwoo Lee, Eunhee An, In-Soo Chun, Kiwan Cheon, Jingyeom Kim and Sun Choi Hee. It charges Boeing with negligence, strict liability and loss of consortium, and argues that the plane should have had a low-airspeed warning system and “proper and effective autothrottle system.”
In court documents, Boeing says it is working to settle all claims arising from the incident, and that Asiana has taken the lead on negotiations with survivors and families of those on the plane.