3 passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 where door plug blew out sue the airline and Boeing for $1 billion

Three passengers on the Alaska Airlines plane that had to make an emergency landing after a door plug blew off mid-flight are suing the airline and Boeing for $1 billion, claiming negligence caused the incident.

A complaint was filed Feb. 20 in Multnomah County, Oregon, on behalf of Kyle Rinker, Amanda Strickland and Kevin Kwok, all of whom were on board Alaska Flight 1282 when an unused exit door detached from the aircraft minutes into a scheduled trip from Portland to Ontario, California, in early January. Multnomah County includes Portland.

The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, to be determined at trial, from Boeing, the corporate giant that manufactured the 737 Max 9 jet flown by Alaska Airlines. 

“As a direct result of the frightful, death-threatening failure of the Boeing aircraft, Mr. Kwok, Mr. Rinker, and Ms. Strickland suffered severe mental, emotional, and psychological injuries, including post-traumatic stress, and physical injuries,” the lawsuit says, noting how the sudden pressure change inside the cabin “caused some passengers’ ears to bleed.”

Jonathan W. Johnson, LLC, an aviation law firm based in Atlanta that filed the complaint on behalf of Kwok, Rinker and Strickland, said in a news release that it hopes “to hold Boeing accountable for its negligence which had caused extreme panic, fear, and post-traumatic stress.” It called the blow-out on flight 1282 ” a preventable incident” that not only threatened the lives of passengers and crew on board that specific plane, but others manufactured by Boeing that were found during subsequent investigations to have similar defects.

The lawsuit alleges the incident on Flight 1282 is “just one terrible chapter in the evolving story of Boeing and Alaska Airlines placing profits above safety.”

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 took off from Portland International Airport just before 5 p.m. PT on Jan. 5, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware, and returned safely to same origin spot as part of an emergency landing around 40 minutes later. The aircraft was about six minutes into its planned trip to California, and flying at 16,000 feet, when one of the exit doors came loose. Social media video obtained by CBS News at the time showed a gaping hole in the side of the plane, which at the time was carrying 174 passengers and six crew members.

Although the plane landed safely back in Portland, several passengers suffered minor injuries and lost phones and other personal belongings that were sucked out of the hole in the aircraft. One passenger, a teenager originally seated with his mother in the row beside the affected door panel, had his shirt ripped off by the strength of the wind barreling through, another passenger, Kelly Bartlett, told CBS News senior transportation and national correspondent Kris an Cleave after it happened.

Preliminary results of an investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board into the incident found that four key bolts meant to hold the door plug in place were missing from the aircraft. The agency said in a report released in early February that “four bolts that prevent upward movement of the MED plug were missing before the MED plug moved upward off the stop pads.”

In the wake of the incident, Alaska Airlines and United Airlines canceled flights on Boeing 737 Max 9 planes as inspections got underway. Both airlines said they found loose hardware on grounded planes of that model. The Federal Aviation Administration ultimately ordered a temporary global grounding of all Boeing 737 Max 9 jets for “immediate inspection,” and is conducting an ongoing probe into the aircraft to figure out what went wrong on flight 1282, and whether Boeing “failed to ensure” that its aircrafts “were in a condition for safe operation in compliance with FAA regulations.”

“This incident should have never happened and it cannot happen again,” the agency said in a statement in January. “The FAA is continuing to support the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the Jan. 5 door plug incident.”

Boeing is facing another class-action lawsuit brought by passengers on the Alaska Airlines flight, which alleges that the Jan. 5 incident “physically injured some passengers and emotionally traumatized most if not all on board.” Alaska Airlines has not been named as a defendant in that suit.

CBS News contacted both Boeing and Alaska Airlines for comment on the latest $1 billion suit. The airline said it could not “comment on pending ligation or the ongoing NTSB investigation,” while Boeing said, “We don’t have anything to add.”

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