United Receives Class Action Lawsuit Over 777 Engine Failure

In a class-action lawsuit filed with a Colorado court two days ago, one of the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight UA328 claims to have suffered emotional distress as a result of the high-profile engine failure. The plaintiff’s legal counsel claims that the incident, strikingly similar to one from 2018, could have been avoided if United had inspected the engine’s fan blades properly.

United 777
A passenger onboard N772UA during the engine failure has filed a class-action lawsuit against United Airlines. Photo: InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr

It has hardly escaped anyone remotely interested in aviation that on February 20th, a United Airlines Boeing 777 with registration N772UA suffered a spectacular engine failure shortly after takeoff from Denver, Colorado.

The 777-200’s right-hand Pratt & Whitney PW4077 engine caught fire, causing debris from the cowling to scatter over the city’s suburbs, fortunately without causing injury to life or limb. Thankfully, the aircraft landed safely with no harm to any of its 231 passengers or ten members of crew.

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Claims of foreseeable and severe distress

However, that does not mean no damage was done, says a class-action lawsuit filed by a passenger onboard Flight UA328, submitted to the United States District Court of Colorado on March 7th. The plaintiff’s legal representation says in the filing that passengers were left to ‘fear for their lives’ for 20 minutes, causing foreseeable and severe emotional distress.

Distress, which attorney Jonathon Corbett claims is a direct result of United failing to ‘properly inspect and maintain its aircraft.’ The lawsuit, seen by Simple Flying, states that the plaintiff, a resident of Carmel, Indiana, and others onboard suffered physical symptoms including nausea, symptoms of shock and, following the flight, insomnia.

“No one should have to live through that as a result of an airline’s refusal to take proper care of its planes and its customers, and I look forward to forcing United to make it right as best is possible,” Mr Corbett told Fox News on Monday.

United Boeing 777-200
The plane carrying the passengers was a Boeing 777-200. Photo: Boris Samoylenko via Flickr

United proud of professionalism

United Airlines was not immediately available for a request for comment at the time of writing. However, a spokesperson for the carrier shared with Fox that,

“Safety remains our highest priority – for our employees and our customers. We are proud of our employees’ care for our customers and steadfast dedication to safety in our day-to-day operations and in response to this incident.

“It is that professionalism that led most of the passengers from flight 328 to board another flight to Honolulu later that evening. We continue to work with federal agencies investigating this incident and due to the ongoing investigation, we will not be able to provide further comment at this time.”

NTSB found fatigue fracture

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published an investigative update regarding the incident on March 5th. The agency said it had found multiple fatigue fracture origins on a fan blade that had been fractured 7.5 inches above the base at the trailing edge.

The blade had undergone 2,979 flight cycles (takeoffs and landings) since its last thermoacoustic inspection in 2016. Those images had been reexamined following a very similar incident with a United Boeing 777-200 in 2018.

United Airlines, Boeing 777, Engine Failure
The NTSB released an investigative update regarding the incident last week. Photo: NTSB

Coincidentally, that engine failure involved the same plane, N773UA, that United used as a replacement aircraft for last month’s Denver to Honolulu flight. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the legal council behind the class-action lawsuit now brought against the airline. The filing states that,

“UNITED’s failure to ensure that what happened in 2018 did not happen again in 2021 is a stunning failure of reasonable safety practices by any standard.”

While no specific sum has been requested, the lawsuit says the expected amount is likely to exceed $5 million.

Do you believe that United Airlines could have done more to prevent the incident? Is a lawsuit reasonable in this case? Tell us what you think in the comments below.