Los Angeles, CA, February 3, 2006 - Six passengers of Alaska Air Flight 536, who in December suffered through a harrowing 30-minute flight after a one-foot-hole opened up in the airplane at 26,000 feet causing an explosive decompression of the cabin, today sued the airline and Menzies Aviation Group, a ground service provider. The airplane made an emergency landing in Seattle. The suit was filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles on behalf of the passengers by the law firm Kreindler & Kreindler LLP.
The aircraft, an MD-83 model, was being loaded for a flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) to Burbank, CA, on December 26, 2005, when it was damaged on the ground by an unreported collision with a baggage-carrying vehicle controlled and operated by Menzies, a ground service provider to several airlines, including Alaska Airlines. Soon after take off, a one-foot-long hole was ripped out of the aircraft's fuselage as a result of the ground collision, causing an explosive and violent decompression of the plane's cabin that resulted in the plaintiffs' physical and emotional injuries.
"The defendants in this case negligently and carelessly disregarded and violated numerous safety procedures and training standards, and have caused these passengers - their customers - substantial injury," said James P. Kreindler of Kreindler & Kreindler. "For this collision to go unreported prior to take off is really inexcusable, and is reflective of a troubling recent history between these two companies. This jet was not airworthy, and yet it still took off, seriously threatening the lives of all those aboard. The system terribly failed these passengers and the crew."
Problems with Ground Operator Known to Alaska Air Prior to Flight 536 Accident
Last year, reportedly to save money, Alaska Air eliminated hundreds of unionized ground service positions at Sea-Tac, outsourcing these services to Menzies. "Alaska Air knew or should have known that Menzies was not competently handling its ground service responsibilities, and yet it continued to use the company to perform those services," said attorney Daniel O. Rose of Kreindler. "Within four months of Alaska Air's retention of Menzies, the operator's ramp employees caused damage to the airline's aircraft on at least 12 separate occasions. Employees of Menzies warned both the operator and the airline about serious training deficiencies of their ramp personnel and of the associated risks. The negligence of both companies resulting in the traumatic Flight 536 incident is quite clear."
The plaintiffs in this suit include Mark Reveley and Emma Hellsten of Los Angeles and four others who reside in Sweden. Their injuries include eardrum damage and hearing loss, affecting their ability to work, along with substantial emotional trauma.
"Apart from their physical injuries, these passengers' lives are profoundly changed by what they thought was their near-death experiences," said Mr. Kreindler. "Some actually witnessed a piece of the plane flying past their windows. The cabin was in chaos, and passengers were saying their last goodbyes to loved ones. They are fortunate to have survived this flight, but many will continue to suffer serious long-term effects."
Similarities to Landmark American Airlines Turbulence Case
The Kreindler attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Messrs. Kreindler and Rose in New York and Stuart R. Fraenkel in Los Angeles. The firm has handled thousands of aviation cases over the course of 50+ years. Among its many landmark cases, in 1999 the firm obtained the nation's highest-ever award for emotional distress caused by turbulence for 13 passengers traumatized on American Airlines Flight 58. On June 25, 1995, the passengers of that plane experienced 30 seconds of severe turbulence as the aircraft rose and fell hundreds of feet while flying over Minnesota. The airline admitted liability. "As with Flight 58, many of the passengers of Flight 536 thought they were going to die and deserve compensation for the emotional trauma of having their lives so callously imperiled," said Mr. Rose.
About Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
Founded in 1950, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP is internationally recognized as the first and most prominent aviation law firm in the United States. The firm has been the leading plaintiff legal counsel on thousands of aviation cases, including major ones such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pan Am Lockerbie Flight 103, Korean Airlines Flight 007, American Airlines Flight 587, and many cases of small private and commercial crashes. Its ranks include airplane and helicopter pilots, engineers and other technical experts. Kreindler has offices in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles, CA. For more information, contact Mr. Rose in New York at 212-687-8181 or Mr. Fraenkel in Los Angeles at 213-622-6469.
Link to Complaint (pdf file)