The first lawsuits arising from the May 2018 crash of Global Air Flight 972 in Cuba that killed 112 people have been filed in a Chicago court, alleging negligence under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

The two complaints, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country on 30 August, allege that Aerolineas Damojh – a Mexican company that trades as Global Air – was negligent in training its pilots, causing the wrongful deaths of plaintiff Juana Cutiño Alfaro’s two adult children and plaintiff Elba Buitrago Cabrera’s brother.

Global Air leased a 39-year-old Boeing 737-200, which was manufactured the United States, to Cuba’s national airline - Cubana de Aviacion - and operated the flight from Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, to Holguin, Cuba on 18 May 2018. According to the complaints, the aircraft was owned and maintained by the Illinois-based AAR Corporation before it was sold to Global Air.

The plaintiffs allege that the pilots “lost control of the accident aircraft and the aircraft stalled, flipped upside down, and crashed” shortly after take-off, citing an eyewitness who “reported seeing the [aircraft’s] left engine. . . on fire and hearing a strange noise before the plane impacted terrain”.

Both complaints claim that the aircraft and “its component parts contained defects which were a contributing cause” of the crash, noting that Global Air published a statement online in mid-July 2018 – which has since been removed – blaming the pilots for the crash because they “attempted a take-off with too steep of an angle of ascent, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall” of the aircraft.

In light of that admission, the plaintiffs argue that as operator of the flight, Global Air, is liable for the deaths of their relatives as it was “legally responsible for assuring that its pilots were properly trained” and that the aircraft was “free from defects”.

The complaints allege that Global Air trained the pilots – through its “agents in the United States – in a “negligent and reckless manner”, claiming that Global Air’s operating and maintenance practices had been “found to be deficient” in a number of countries prior to the crash.

According to the complaints, the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority has temporarily suspended the airline’s operating certificate pending an audit of its practices.

The plaintiffs are seeking all damages available under Illinois’ Wrongful Death Act on the grounds that Global Air were negligent in their obligations to provide the “highest duty of care for the safety of its passengers”, causing “unspeakable pain” and “substantial pecuniary losses” to the families of the passengers who were killed in the crash.

Partner Austin Bartlett at BartlettChen Law in Illinois is representing both plaintiffs in both lawsuits. He told ALN that although the decision to file the complaints in the United States might seem “a little counterintuitive”, he believes that the country has “a strong interest” in the case.

Bartlett noted that he would know more after full discovery has taken place, adding that it is possible that other causes of action may be added post-discovery and that punitive damages can only be requested in Illinois with leave of the court.

Boeing and AAR are both named as respondents-in-discovery in the complaints, under a statute which Bartlett explained is specific to Illinois law – although some US states do have similar statutes – allowing plaintiffs to name entities they believe hold information that would be relevant to the naming of other defendants in a lawsuit.

Bartlett noted that both companies might be named as defendants in the lawsuits further on down the line, depending on the outcome of discovery, but emphasised that it is equally possible that they will not be named as defendants.

“I think these are families that are grieving terribly,” Bartlett added, noting that he would do his “utmost” to find out what happened on that day and the discover the full extent of the causes of the crash.

In the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois County Department, Law Division

Elba Buitrago Cabrera v Aerolineas Damojh (Global Air)

  • BartlettChen

Partner Austin Bartlett

In the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois County Department, Law Division

Juana Aurora Cutino Alfaro v Aerolineas Damojh (Global Air)

  • BartlettChen

Partner Austin Bartlett