By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.
A complaint against The Boeing Co., as the manufacturer, assembler, and seller of an aircraft that was believed to have been lost at sea was filed on behalf of the spouses, next of kin, other beneficiaries, and the estates of forty-four passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared mid-flight over the South Indian Sea. The complaint asserts that the disappearance and crash of Flight MH-370 was caused or partially caused by defects in the design, manufacture, and/or assembly of the aircraft, that the accident was foreseeable, and that the aircraft was unreasonably dangerous because it failed to function as expected and lacked adequate emergency locator devices (Keith v. The Boeing Co., March 4, 2017).
On March 8, 2014, plaintiffs’ decedents were passengers on board a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, being operated as Malaysia Air Flight 370 for a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China. At approximately 1:20 a.m local time the flight crew made their last confirmed communication with air traffic control. The flight never reached Beijing and is believed to have been lost in the South Indian Ocean with all passengers and crew on board.
The complaint—filed by the South Carolina appointed Special Administrator (or the plaintiff) for passengers lost on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and their family members, and all lawful heirs and beneficiaries of the Flight 370 passengers—asserted numerous ways in which the aircraft was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it left the custody and control of the manufacturer, including issues with the electrical wiring, avionics and communication systems, pressurization and fire suppression systems, and the use of faulty emergency locator transmitters.
Causes of action. After failing to locate the missing aircraft, the Australia Air Safety Board (ATSB) concluded that the most likely cause of the disappearance and crash of Flight MH370 was a large-scale and cascading sequence of electrical failures. Based on that conclusion, the complaint asserts various causes of action including negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability against the manufacturer of the aircraft. For the strict liability claims, the complaint alleges that the aircraft was defective and unsafe for its intended purpose at the time it left the possession of the manufacturer and/or the seller, and the product caused personal injuries to persons while being used in a reasonably foreseeable manner. The complaint further contends that the manufacturers failed to properly design, assemble, test, and inspect the aircraft. As a result of these failures and the subsequent crash and disappearance of the aircraft, the plaintiffs’ decedents were injured, thereby harming the plaintiff, the decedents, and the decedents’ families, and causing them to suffer damages and losses.
As to the negligence claim, the complaint alleges that the manufacturer had a duty to use and exercise reasonable and due care in the manufacturing, fabricating, testing, inspection, production, marketing, packaging, and sale of its aircraft. The complaint further alleged that the manufacturer breached those duties and, as a direct result, the plaintiffs’ decedents were injured, thereby harming the plaintiff, the decedents, and the decedents’ families, and causing them to suffer damages and losses—including loss of life, lost wages, funeral costs, mental and physical pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
Relief. The Special Administrator demands a trial by jury seeking both compensatory and punitive damages, plus interest and costs, against the aircraft manufacturer, as well as any other relief deemed proper by the court.
The case is No. 2:17-cv-00608-PMD.
Attorneys: James R. Brauchle (Motley Rice) for Gregory D. Keith.
Companies: Boeing Co.
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