·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Family of Deceased Sues Airline Companies

— February 1, 2017

Family of deceased passengers Yvonne Selke and her daughter Emily sues airline companies.

When a plane is boarded, passengers are essentially putting their lives in the hands of the pilot, co-pilot and crew members, trusting they will get them safely to their destination. Most flights are uneventful transitions from point A to point B.  However, the unexpected can occur and this is when a surviving loved one sues.  9-11 is a prime example of a fluke flight tragedy in which many lives were lost. 

When American passengers, a former Army officer, and her daughter Emily, a graduate of Drexel University, boarded Germanwings Flight 9525 on March 24, 2015, they had no way of knowing they wouldn’t make it to the other side.  They had planned a trip to visit England, Spain, and Germany after departing from the states, leaving from Virginia’s Dulles International Airport.

Image Courtesy of Paychex
Image Courtesy of Paychex

Evidence showed Flight 9525’s co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, age 27, abruptly locked the captain, Patrick Sondenheimer, age 34, father of two, out of the cockpit of the aircraft and set the plane on a crash course with a fast-paced descent into the French Alps.  Moments later, despite pleas from Sondenheimer to “For God’s Sake, open the door!”, he crashed he plane into a remote mountainside in an apparent “deliberate desire to destroy the plan”, killing the mother and her daughter.  Of the 144 passengers abroad, the two women were the only Americans on the flight.  Unfortunately, among the other victims who met their demise that day was a number of school children and a mom and son vacationing. Numerous unidentified remains have been buried near the crash site.  

It was later reported that Lubitz’s actions could have been related to his history of battling depression, for which he was prescribed medication.  He had also been suffering from vision issues.  However, despite these known facts, he had still been trusted to navigate an aircraft.

Image Courtesy of New York Daily News
Image Courtesy of New York Daily News

On Monday, Yvonne and Emily’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, against Germanwings, its parent company, Lufthansa Airlines, and United Airlines headquartered in Chicago.  The Montreal Convention, an aviation treaty, allows for a lawsuit to be valid if an individual sues in the home country of the passengers involved.  The three companies are part of a global airline alliance which was established to enable passengers to book tickets on each other’s lines.  The lawsuit alleges that Germanwings and Lufthansa weren’t in compliance with a policy established post-September 11, 2001, requiring at least two crew members in the cockpit with the pilot and co-pilot at all times.  This keeps the safety of passengers from being compromised by an incapacitated pilot or one with a dark agenda, and the family believes if the requirement had been met, the mother and daughter may have been saved.   

United Airlines has responded that it believes that the attempt to file a lawsuit is unwarranted and the company “will defend” itself if the family indeed sues.  Lufthansa, yet to respond to the lawsuit, had initially offered each victim’s relatives close to $56,000.  German families were offered even more, and additional compensation varied by home country.  However, recipient families have reported they are not satisfied with the treatment they’ve received from the airline.  In fact, they are offended the company would put a monetary value on the lives of their lost loved ones.


Family of US Passengers on Germanwings Plane File Lawsuit

Germanwings Plane Crash Anniversary: What We Know About Flight 9525 And Its Co-Pilot One Year Later

Join the conversation!