In March 2019, a passenger plane was diverted to Dulles Airport after passengers sensed a strong odor after takeoff. Seven passengers were sickened by the intensity of the odor and required hospitalization for treatment. 20 total passengers were injured. The incident raises questions about the airline’s liability for the passengers’ injuries.
The airplane, which was operated by United Airlines and was bound from Baltimore to San Francisco. Shortly after takeoff, passengers smelled a strong fuel odor on board the aircraft. The odor caused passengers to suffer both extreme nausea as well as anxiety attacks. Other passengers experienced chest pains and difficulty breathing. The airline made the emergency decision to divert the plane to Dulles to both evacuate the aircraft and to get the sickened passengers the necessary medical treatment.
Minimal Information From the United Airlines
The airline did not share with the public the cause of the odor on the aircraft. The captain simply informed the passengers that there was an issue with the ventilation on the aircraft and that it would have to make an emergency landing. Many passengers on the flight were delayed by as much as ten hours as they were forced to make alternate travel arrangements.
The airline’s statement after the incident and reporting on the day of the incident has been the only mention of the incident. No cause for the odor was given at the time. No further information was released so while the airline may know the underlying cause of the incident, the general public was not informed.
Financial Liability of Airlines
Airlines face the possibility of financial liability to their customers when they suffer any sort of injury while on an aircraft. Airlines owe a duty to their passengers to take ordinary care to make sure that they are not injured while in flight or on the aircraft. This can extend to a situation where the plane malfunctions in a way that sickens passengers. Depending on the circumstances that are revealed in the resulting investigation of the incident, the airline may be liable for their passengers’ injuries. The airlines may be found responsible and obligated to pay their passengers the following:
- Damages for pain and suffering that passengers experience
- All possible medical expenses to treat sickened passengers for both the short term and long term
- Any other financial damage suffered by passengers
The airline will likely not be hit with punitive damages here since this incident was likely the result of a mechanical malfunction as opposed to intentional misconduct on the part of the airline.
Have You Been Injured On an Airplane?
The professional and committed lawyers at KBA Attorneys are experienced in aviation lawsuits. Our lawyers act to help passengers who have suffered injuries at the hands of the airlines vindicate their legal rights. We can assist passengers in taking on the big airlines and their high-priced lawyers. Our personal injury law firm does not shy away from holding the airlines responsible for both their actions and their negligence when it harms passengers. Call KBA Attorneys today for a free case evaluation and find out how we can help.
ABC7. “7 passengers taken to hospital due to odor on plane, aircraft diverted to Dulles Airport”, ABC7 WJLA, https://wjla.com/news/local/7-taken-to-hospital-after-odor-detected-on-plane-grounded-at-dulles-airport, Accessed May 3, 2019.