Four passengers who were aboard Alaska Airlines flight 1282 during the rapid depressurisation incident that has grounded 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft have filed a lawsuit against the US carrier and the airframer. 

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified economic damages based on ”havoc, fear, trauma, severe and extreme distress and other injuries” sustained during the flight on 5 January that was scheduled from Portland, Oregon to Southern California, according to a lawsuit filed on 16 January in King County Superior Court.

Both Boeing and Alaska Airlines are listed as defendants. All four plaintiffs are US citizens – two are residents of Washington, and two are from California. 

Alaska 737 Max 9-c-Alaska Airlines

Source: Alaska Airlines

Four passengers of Alaska Airlines flight 1282 are listed as plaintiffs in a recently filed lawsuit against Boeing and Alaska Airlines 

They are represented by Seattle-based attorney Mark Lindquist, who writes that the door-plug failure at about 16,000ft caused “a loud bang and blare” that was ”loud enough to blast through noise-cancelling” headphones. 

”Plaintiffs feared the gaping hole in the fuselage, rapid depressurisation and general havoc was a prelude to the plane’s destruction and their own likely death,” Lindquist writes. ”This blowout endangered the lives of the passengers and the crew and caused mental anguish, anxiety, severe and extreme emotional distress, fear of flying, sleeplessness, physical pain, hearing issues, PTSD and other personal injuries.” 

”At the time of the blow-out, the plane was still climbing, nobody was seated directly next to the door plug and passengers were still wearing their seatbelts,” he continues. “Due to this confluence of factors, nobody died.” 

The aircraft safely landed back in Portland without major injury to passengers.

Alaska, which voluntarily grounded its fleet of 65 Max 9s following the incident, did not comment on the pending litigation. The airline offered some financial compensation the 171 passengers on the flight shortly after the incident.

On 17 January, Alaska’s chief executive Ben Minicucci said the airline still has no timeline for returning its Max 9s to service as it completes inspections of the aircraft. It has been cancelling between 110-150 daily flights daily due to the groundings. 

”To all who have been impacted by these disruptions, I am sorry,” he says. 

The lawsuit alleges that Alaska negligently continued operating the two-month-old 737 despite repeated illumination of the “fail light” on the pressurisation system in the weeks prior to the accident.

The fail light had illuminated on three previous occasions –  on 7 December, on 3 January and on 4 January – as part of a “triple redundant” system that performed as intended, according to Jennifer Homendy, chair of the US National Transportation Safety Board. 

“At this time, we have no indications whatsoever that this correlated to the expulsion of the door plug and the rapid decompression,” Homendy said on 8 January. 

However, Alaska had chosen not to operate the aircraft on flights over large bodies of water, for example to Hawaii, due to the fail light’s illumination, which is a focus of the recently filed civil complaint.  

“Alaska Airlines management decided the subject plane was not safe to fly over the ocean, but was somehow safe enough to fly over land,” Lindquist says. “This risky decision endangered passengers.” 

The lawsuit also alleges that Boeing ”negligently breached its duty of care” by either designing a door plug without sufficient redundancy or manufacturing a defective door plug and related components. 

Lindquist writes that Boeing “failed to properly test the aircraft and the door plug before selling it to Alaska Airlines”, adding that the “Max 9 aircraft was unreasonably dangerous and defective, and Boeing is strictly liable for all damages sustained by plaintiffs”.