4 passengers file new lawsuit against Alaska Airlines, Boeing after midair blowout

Alaska Airlines and Boeing were hit with a lawsuit from four passengers who claimed they experienced “havoc, fear, trauma, [and] severe and extreme distress” during a midair blowout aboard a flight earlier this month.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court in Washington state, is seeking damages for personal injuries after a door plug on a Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft blew off while an Alaska Airlines flight was 16,000 feet above Oregon.

The blowout left a gaping hole on the side of the plane, and the pilots were forced to make an emergency landing at Portland International Airport instead of continuing to its Ontario, Calif., destination.

Attorney Mark Lindquist argued in a court complaint that the blowout prompted “intense fear, distress, anxiety, trauma, physical pain and other injuries” to his clients and other passengers. He also explained that one plaintiff thought, “This is the end,” while one of his clients sent text messages including one that said, “Mom our plane depressed. We’re in masks. I love you.”

Lindquist alleged “terror” continued on the plane for several minutes as passengers were unsure of the plane’s ability to fly, and some feared death.

No serious injuries were reported on the flight.

Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuit, and Alaska Airlines did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The four plaintiffs included two people from California — a school psychologist and teacher — and two from Washington state, including a college student and a business analyst. They are seeking economic and other damages for their experience.

The suit charges three counts — negligence and strict product liability against Boeing and negligence against Alaska Airlines.

The suit comes less than a week after a separate group of six passengers filed a class-action lawsuit against Boeing. Plaintiffs in the first case allege the emergency caused some to suffer physical and “emotional distress.”

The incident has sparked widespread calls for a deeper investigation into Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Spirit AeroSystems, the manufacturer that made the fuselage and door plug that flew off.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a probe last week into whether the aircraft manufacturer failed to ensure its planes complied with the agency’s safety regulations. The probe was expanded Wednesday to include Boeing’s manufacturing practices and production lines.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in an initial probe that a warning light indicating a pressurization problem with the plane that experienced the blowout lit up on three other flights, including two earlier this month and one in early December.

Lindquist pointed to the NTSB’s findings in the court complaint and listed a series of documents related to Boeing’s previous incidents with other models, including two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, where all the passengers on the flight died.

The FAA temporarily grounded the estimated 171 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft a day after the midair blowout and said “safety of the flying public, not speed” will dictate when the aircraft will return to service.

“It took the FAA three months and a second crash to ground the Max 8,” Lindquist said in a statement. “So it’s good to see this quick action. Lessons were learned by the FAA, if not Boeing.”

Boeing on Monday announced additional inspections of the production of its 737 Max 9 model will also take place at both Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems facilities. Under the new plan, the company will also inspect Spirit’s installation of the door plug and approve them before they are sent to Boeing, which has its main factory in Everett, Wash.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.