The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has agreed to consolidate all lawsuits filed against Boeing and Asiana Airlines over the crash of Flight 214 at San Francisco airport over the summer, centralizing the cases before one judge as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
According to a transfer order (PDF) issued on December 13, complaints filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the country involving allegations that negligence on behalf of Boeing or Asiana airlines led to the July 6 Asiana Airlines runway crash will be transferred to U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.
Currently, there are at least 10 airline accident lawsuits filed in connection with the crash. Nine of the 10 federal complaints have been brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with the tenth case pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In addition, numerous additional complaints are expected on behalf of additional passengers and crew, many of whom have already hired lawyers and indicated an intention to file a lawsuit for injuries suffered.
The accident involved 291 passengers and 16 crew members, with the 10 current lawsuits only including claims on behalf of 27 plaintiffs. Boeing called for the consolidation, and none of the other parties opposed the move.
On July 6, while approaching runway 28L, the Asiana Airlines plane clipped the seawall of the runway, which juts out into the ocean. When the Boeing 777 airliner crashed, at least one passenger died on site and another died in a hospital from severe injuries suffered during the crash. A third passenger, a teenage Chinese girl, died during the aftermath of the crash when she was run over by emergency responders who did not see her as they raced to the scene.
Preliminary reports from investigators have suggested that the Asiana Airlines plane was flying too slow and at too low an altitude to clear the sea wall at the end of the runway. The flight crew reportedly tried to abort the landing and circle around again, but the tail of the plane clipped the sea wall and was torn off, sending the plane skidding across the runway.
Reports also indicate that this flight was the pilot’s first time flying a Boeing 777 and the flight crew included an instructor. Investigators have found no signs of mechanical failure, but caution that it is still too early to determine with any certainty what caused the crash.
Some of the lawsuits allege that Boeing was partly responsible for the crash, because it failed to upgrade the Boeing 777 following a 2009 crash in Turkey that occurred under similar circumstances with the Boeing 737s. Boeing has also trained Asiana pilots since 2006 specifically in operating their planes.