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Lawsuits & Litigation

California Teachers Sue Airline After Plane Dumps Fuel on School

— January 17, 2020

Teachers from Park Avenue Elementary School recently filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines for dumping jet fuel over the school and the surrounding area.

Four teachers from Park Avenue Elementary School near Los Angeles are suing Delta Airlines after a jet plane experiencing engine trouble dropped jet fuel over the school and the surrounding area. At the time, the plane was making an emergency return to the airport when the teachers noticed the fuel “drizzling down like raindrops with overwhelming fumes.” The suit states the students outside began screaming and crying in alarm.

Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Gavel resting on open book; image by verkeorg, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

When describing the incident, Gloria Allred, the attorney for the teachers said, “The plaintiffs could feel the fuel on their clothes, their flesh, their eyes, and their skin.” She added that more teachers or students may be added to the lawsuit soon and said, “Fuel penetrated their mouths and noses as well, producing a lasting and severe irritation, and a lasting and a noxious taste and smell.”

In total, about 60 students and teachers were exposed to the jet fuel. They were “examined for minor skin and lung irritations and told to wash with soap and water.” Fortunately, no one had to go to the hospital. However, the plaintiffs, Lisette Barajas, Laura Guzman, Mariana De La Torre, and Anabel Samperio, allege that even after being examined, they continue to suffer from emotional pain and discomfort.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages. The lawsuit isn’t the only grievance filed against Delta over the incident. In fact, the South Coast Air Quality Management District “issued a violation to Delta for the fuel dump” and alleges the “fuel created a public nuisance.” The South Coast Air Quality Management District is a “governmental agency that monitors air pollution for parts of Southern California.”

What happened, though? How did the plane end up dumping jet fuel in the first place? According to Delta, “Flight 89 to Shanghai had an engine problem after takeoff and needed to quickly return to Los Angeles International Airport.” However, the suit claims the “flight crew radioed that the jet needed to return due to a compressor stall, a potentially serious problem.” On top of that, either the pilot or co-pilot said “a fuel dump was not needed but the aircraft later did begin releasing streams of fuel from its wings.” The plane eventually landed safely, but only after it dumped “15,000 gallons of fuel to reach a safe landing weight.” It turns out, the “weight of a full load of fuel carries a risk of damaging a jetliner during landing.

According to the Health and Human Services Department, very little is known about the adverse health effects related to jet fuel exposure. However, some studies conducted by military personnel suggest exposure may “affect the nervous system, but that research involved people who work around jet fuel all the time.

An investigation into the matter has already been launched by the Federal Aviation Administration, citing procedures that “call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.”


California teachers sue after jetliner dumps fuel on schools

Four teachers sue Delta after jet fuel dump over elementary school

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