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United Airlines is Facing a Lawsuit After Flight UA328 Engine Failure

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United Airlines is Facing a Lawsuit After Flight UA328 Engine Failure

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Plaintiff Chad Schnell, a passenger from Flight UA328, filed a class action lawsuit against United Airlines on behalf of all fellow passengers who experienced “foreseeable and severe emotional distress” when the plane’s engine failed and they were forced into an emergency landing.

On February 20th, 2021, one of the engines on United Airlines Flight UA328 “spectacularly failed”.

Flight UA328 was midair after departing the Denver International Airport when the right-wing engine caught fire, visible from the plane's windows. Debris from the burning engine fell over a suburb of Broomfield, Colorado, and the pilot sent out a mayday call before performing an emergency landing back at the airport. Miraculously, no one was physically injured, including the 231 passengers and 10 crew members aboard the aircraft and residents of the areas where the engine debris was found.

However, as passengers come to terms with the terrifying situation they narrowly escaped, a class action complaint has come forward, seeking compensation for severe emotional distress stemming from fear for their lives.

The airplane in question was a Boeing 777 with a Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine.

The official complaint alleges that the passengers’ emotional distress was negligently inflicted because it “...could have been avoided had United operated in accordance with federal regulations.” When passengers first noticed the fire on the wing and the fire alarm could be heard in the cockpit, the pilots followed procedure by cutting “all fuel and hydraulic fluid to the affected engine” in an attempt to starve the fire. However, the fire continued, leading the plaintiff and investigating legal counsel to suspect that there was pre-existing damage to the fuel lines or valves which should have been noticed and addressed before takeoff.

Additionally, an investigation into the incident indicated that “ least 1 engine fan blade tore off during flight due to ‘metal fatigue’...”, resulting in the catastrophic engine event. Metal fatigue is a phenomenon that airline maintenance providers can check for using thermal acoustic imaging and fluorescent penetrant inspection. The complaint points out that another plane of the same model with the same engine experienced a similar engine event in 2018, indicating that United Airlines should have known to test the engine blades for metal fatigue prior to takeoff.

Passengers suffered from physical symptoms of shock and lasting distress.

Although Air Traffic Control immediately ensured runways were cleared at the airport for an emergency landing, and all passengers disembarked without physical injury, 18 minutes had passed from the time the passengers became aware of the engine failure to when the plane landed without further incident. During these 18 minutes, passengers aboard the flight rightly feared for their lives, and upon disembarking, experienced “...nausea, tachycardia, shaking, symptoms of shock, and following the flight, insomnia,” as a result of the near-death experience. Of the 231 passengers aboard the flight, each person over the age of 2 who was not actively working for United Airlines at the time of the incident is included in the class. Schnell on behalf of himself and the other passengers is seeking compensation for severe emotional distress, attorney’s fees, and any other relief which the Court deems appropriate.

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