Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 mystery takes a legal turn in Chicago

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has developed a new twist that involves a Chicago law firm and Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), the Chicago-based company that manufactured the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft that disappeared on Mar. 7 with 239 passengers and crew on board.

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On Tuesday, Ribbeck Law Chartered, aChicago-based firm that specializes in lawsuits involving the aviation industry, filed a Petition for Discovery in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago on behalf of Januari Siregar, a lawyer whose son is among the missing passengers on Flight 370.

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The Petition names two defendants, Boeing Co. and Malaysian Airlines.  A spokesman for Ribbeck Law said today that additional court filings could be made in the next few days naming other defendants that were involved in designing and manufacturing component parts for the Boeing 777 that has gone missing.

Malaysian government officials and Malaysian Airlines executives have not definitively said what caused the Boeing 777 to disappear. But the Ribbeck Law Petition appears to have been filed to obtain evidence that could be crucial if and when a final determination is made about what caused Flight 370 to vanish.

Malaysian government officials said earlier this week that, as of now, all indications are that Flight 370 crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all aboard.

But the Ribbeck Law Petition filed in Cook County Circuit Court suggests Ribbeck attorneys, as well as aviation experts the firm has retained, are very interested in a Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness directive issued last September that warned of cracking and corrosion problems with Boeing 777 aircraft.

The directive noted that cracking and corrosion on the fuselage skin of Boeing 777 aircraft could lead to rapid decompression and loss of structural integrity of the aircraft.  Such a situation, Ribbeck Law noted, could lead to a sudden drop in cabin pressure aboard a Boeing 777 that could leave passengers and crew unconscious with no one manning the plane’s cockpit controls.

No one involved in the Malaysian Flight 370 investigation has publicly confirmed the plane’s fate followed such a scenario, but all evidence so far suggests the plane did fly on for several hours after the cockpit crew last was in voice contact with Malaysian air traffic control.

Roddick Law now wants the Courts to order Boeing to provide the identity of the component part manufacturers that designed and manufactured the Underwater Locator Beacon (ULB). Questions have been raised in the coverage of Flight 370 in recent days about whether all ULB’s aboard Flight 370 were activated, as they should have been, if the plane fell into the Indian Ocean.

Roddick also wants information about the designers and manufacturers of electric components and wiring on the Boeing 777 and the same information about any batteries on board the aircraft, among other aircraft-related information it is seeking through its Petition.

Roddick Law’s Monica Kelly, the lead lawyer on the Flight 370 case, said the law firm is also requesting the judge in Chicago to order Malaysia Airlines to provide information about crew training for catastrophic events, the airline’s security practices and the names of the person or company possessing documents related to psychological evaluations of Malaysia Airlines crew.

Kelly said that “through the initial discovery process in the courts, we will obtain for the families of the victims all the facts and information necessary to prove fault and from the start we will seek to preserve the evidence in this case, including protecting the wreckage from destructive testing.”

Added Kelly: “We must find what caused the aircraft to crash and demand that the problems with the airline and the aircraft’s design and manufacturing are immediately resolved to avoid future tragedies.”

A spokesman for Ribbeck Law said the firm had heard no response from Boeing or Malaysian Airlines as of this morning. The Ribbeck spokesman emphasized the Petition for Discovery filed on Tuesday is not a lawsuit, but he indicated that Riddick expected to file suit in due course.

Since its founding, Ribbeck Law has represented victims from 69 countries involved in 43 commercial aviation plane crashes, including 115 passengers on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 that crashed while attempting to land at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013. The Asiana crash also involved a Boeing 777.

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