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Local law firm sues American Airlines for injuries sustained during emergency evacuation

Posted at 4:17 PM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 19:23:42-04

A local law firm says they have joined the fight in holding airline companies accountable.

On Friday, Murray Guari Trial Attorneys in West Palm Beach filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines, asking the company to pay up. The lawsuit claims their client, Linda Fanelli, was severely injured during an emergency evacuation of Flight #1822 at the Palm Beach International Airport in July 2016.

And according to attorney Jason Guari, that evacuation could have been prevented.

"American Airlines should have put the safety of its passengers first," Guari told Contact 5 investigative reporter Merris Badcock, shortly after filing the lawsuit. "They should have never boarded that plane."

According to a Federal Aviation Administration incident report, problems with this particular American Airlines plane started when it first landed at West Palm Beach.

The incident report states an inbound pilot "reported fluid leaking from the aircraft”. However, the report says a "temporary line repair was made", and Flight #1822 was given the thumbs up for takeoff.

But then as American Airlines was heading down the runway, a JetBlue pilot noticed a crucial problem.

“Tower, JetBlue 154. We see fluid coming out of the bottom of American,” the JetBlue pilot is heard saying over the air traffic control radio.

The American Airlines airplane was leaking hydraulic fluid all over the runway.

(View the FAA Incident Report here, or scroll down to keep reading.)

"From what we know, many of the passengers started smelling fumes while they were at the gate," said Scott Perry, another attorney working on the case. "[These passengers] are trusting [American Airlines] to fly them home safely, and [American Airlines] just absolutely failed." 

Fanelli's attorneys are also suing the pilot of the aircraft, Kenneth Chapline, who they say "started a panicked, disorganized evacuation”, according to the federal complaint.

While Fanelli was exiting the aircraft, she says she slipped and fell on the same hydraulic fluid that caused the evacuation, hitting the airplane wing hard.

Fanelli claims she suffered injuries to her shoulders and neck that were so severe, they required several surgeries.

And she wasn't the only person contaminated by the fluid. According to radio transmissions obtained by Contact 5, the JetBlue pilot who originally called in the leak told air traffic control he could smell the fumes, and saw people sliding into the fluid which had gotten on one of the evacuation slides.

"I can smell it. It smells like fuel,” the JetBlue pilot says over his radio. “It looks like the people are sliding down on that slide. [It] appears to be fluid on the slide."

Fanelli's attorneys say she is facing over $200,000 in medical bills, and claim American Airlines never offered any kind of compensation for her injuries.

We have reached out to American Airlines for a comment. They responded saying, “American is committed to providing a positive and safe travel experience to all of our customers. We are looking into the concerns raised by Ms. Fanelli, and will respond via the legal process.”

(View the formal federal complaint filed against American Airlines here.)