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Boeing Seeks MDL Consolidation for Asiana Flight 214 Crash Lawsuits

A request has been filed with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate and centralize all federal lawsuits filed nationwide over the crash of Asiana Flight 214 at San Francisco Airport this summer.  

According to a Motion to Transfer (PDF) filed by Boeing on September 24, at least ten separate federal lawsuits have been brought against the company on behalf of 27 Plaintiffs stemming from the July 6 runway crash, which involved 291 passengers and 16 crew members.

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.

Boeing has asked that all current lawsuits and any future complaints be centralized before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers in the Northern District of California for coordinated handling during discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Centralization of the aviation accident lawsuits would reduce duplicative discovery, prevent repetitive and possibly inconsistent pretrial rulings and serve the convenience of the witnesses and all parties involved, Boeing argued in its Motion.

Asiana Airlines, also a defendant in the lawsuits, filed a brief in support of the MDL petition (PDF) on September 25. The company notes that the nine California cases are already all before Judge Rogers, who has scheduled a case management conference for November 18.

At least another six lawsuits have been filed against Boeing in the Superior Court of Cook County, in Illinois, which Boeing is seeking to transfer to federal court, meaning they would be subject to an Asiana accident MDL in California if the U.S. JPML agrees to Boeing’s call for consolidation.

Oral arguments on the motion are likely be scheduled for an upcoming JPML hearing set for December 5, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Crash Still Under Investigation

The investigation into the Asiana crash is still underway by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The crash occurred as Asiana Flight 214 was landing at the San Francisco airport.

Approaching runway 28L, the plane clipped the seawall of the runway, which juts out into the ocean. When the Boeing 777 airliner crashed, at least one passenger died 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 a sea wall at the end of the runway, which juts out into the water. 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 far 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.

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