Wrongful death suit over plane crash in Russia lands in Cook County court

By Andrew Thomason | Feb 13, 2015


Some family members of the 60 people who died in a 2013 plane crash in Russia filed a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this month in Chicago against the airline, plane’s leasing company and manufacturer.

Flight U9-636 from Moscow to Kazan, Russia was on its final approach when its crew decided the plane wasn’t aligned with the runway properly. They switched off the autopilot mode and accelerated the jet so they could climb, circle and try another shot at landing.

The Boeing 737, however, did not have the airspeed needed to perform the climb the pilots were attempting, and the plane stalled out at 2,300 feet before going nose down and crashing into the ground, according to the suit.

All 44 passengers and 6 crew members were killed in the crash.

The plaintiffs who filed the Feb. 4 suit in Cook County Circuit Court are all family members of the deceased. They claim Cook County has jurisdiction over the matter because Boeing Co. is one of the defendants and it is headquartered in Chicago.

The suit includes a litany of allegations, blaming everyone from the pilots to the plane manufacture. The other defendants are: Tatarstan Airlines, Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., Terra Firma Capital Management Ltd., AWAS Aviation Capital Ltd., AWAS Aviation Services and Tulpar Air.

According to the 16-page complaint, the Boeing 737-53A had design flaws and, after 24 years in service, was showing its age before the November 2013 fatal flight.

“[A]n inspection of Boeing 737 revealed a variety of know issues including a faulty computer, a fault actuator, and failed torque tubes,” the suit alleges.

It goes on to outline several incidents of mechanical issues with the plane, including one about a year before the crash when it was forced to make an emergency landing in Kazan.

But, the plaintiffs assert it wasn’t just the plane that had issues. They claim the crew on the plane should not have been flying that day.

“[T]he pilots of the Accident Aircraft were not properly licensed, trained or experienced and/ or had poor pilot training, to be flying the Accident Aircraft,” the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs claim the accident was a result of negligence by all of the named defendants, including the crew, the aircraft owner, airline and contractors in charge of aircraft maintenance.

They blame Boeing for manufacturing and selling the allegedly defective plane; AWAS and its daughter company, Terra Firma, for leasing the plane to Tartarstan Airlines, which they contend “had failed and was continually failing to comply” with safety requirements; and Tulpar Air for an allegedly botched inspection of the plane two days before the crash.

The plaintiffs' suit further alleges strict liability, essentially that regardless of whether the defendants' actions were intentional, they still led to the wrongful deaths of those on board the plane that day.

“The crash of the subject aircraft and death and injury to Plaintiffs’ Decedents were proximately caused and/or substantially contributed to by a latent and unreasonably dangerous defect in the design, and/or manufacture, and/or marketing of the subject aircraft, and/or its component parts,” the suit states.

The plaintiffs are asking for compensatory damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of earnings and earning capacity in an amount to be determined at trial. They also want punitive damages, costs and interest.

The suit was filed by attorneys Joseph J. Siprut and Michael L. Silverman of Siprut PC in Chicago and Thomas V. Girardi and Keith D. Griffin of Girardi | Keese in Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs are Ilbrus Sibgatulin, Ilsia Shuvalova, Ruslan Safiullin, Anastasia Kamasheva, Daniel Kamashev, Andrey Kamashev, Flyura Kamasheva, Andrey Kamashev, Natalya Veprentseva, Evgeniya Skidanova, Vladimir Sterkhov, Marina Sterkhova and Daria Sterkhova, as well as 100 John Does.

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