One passenger onboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 has wasted no time in suing the airline.
Lilia Chavez was was sitting three rows behind the smashed window. Per NPR:
The lawsuit alleges that the traumatic events of Flight 1380 left Chavez suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other personal injuries.
“Ms. Chavez witnessed the horror as the force of the depressurization pulled an innocent passenger partially through the shattered window and she watched as passengers risked their lives to pull the passenger back into the aircraft and save her life,” says the document.
It describes how Chavez “prayed and feared for her life” and heard other passengers calling their loved ones to say their final goodbyes. Chavez also “contacted her children to tell them that she loved them and that she was preparing to die aboard the crippled aircraft,” says the lawsuit.
Chavez must prove negligence occurred, ie. a failure to exercise reasonable care which resulted in injury. Gone are the “strict liability” days in which a passenger could recover for damages from a commercial airline, regardless of fault or whether negligence occurred. Commercial flying has become too widespread and safe.
She is also suing CFM International, GE Aviation and Safran, three firms who designed and assemble the engines.
Put simply, her case will hinge on whether Southwest failed to properly maintain its engines: whether this accident was foreseeable due to a failure of Southwest (or one of the engine makers) to exercise reasonable care.
Pointing to Southwest Flight 3472 from 2016, where an engine also failed when a fan blade broke off, Chavez’s legal team is already asserting that Southwest knew its engines had issues and failed to take corrective action.
For its part, Southwest is wisely refusing to comment on the case.
Our focus remains on working with the [National Transportation Safety Board] to support their investigation. We can’t comment on any pending litigation. The safety and security of our employees and customers is our highest priority at all times.
A lawsuit over Flight 1380 was inevitable. I suspect this will be the first of many. Once the NTSB releases it report, we will see if Southwest moves to flight the lawsuits or quickly settle.