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Couple Aboard United Flight 811 Sues Airline, Boeing

May 5, 1989

CLEVELAND (AP) _ United Airlines and a Boeing Co. subsidiary are facing a class-action suit by a couple who were aboard a plane on which nine passengers were sucked out a hole created when a cargo door broke off the aircraft.

The suit alleges that United and Boeing Commercial Airplane Co., which produces the Boeing 747-100 jet, were negligent in operating and building the plane. It asked for compensatory damages of more than $1 million and punitive damages to be set by a jury.

Clinton and Lillian Zimlich of Broadview Heights, Ohio, asked that the U.S. District Court suit be made a class action on behalf of the 320 people who were aboard United Flight 811 on Feb. 24.

The suit alleges that United failed to properly maintain the aircraft and allowed it to become unsafe. It said Boeing knew, or should have known, about defects in the plane which might make it unsafe.

Joe Hopkins, a spokesman at United’s Chicago headquarters, said, ″We haven’t seen the suit and have no comment.″

Craig Martin, a Boeing spokesman in Seattle, said the aircraft manufacturer is not going to comment on matters that are under litigation.

Zimlich, a semi-retired real estate executive, escaped injury as the plane turned around while en route to New Zealand and returned to Honolulu with a front cargo door and part of its fuselage ripped off. The accident occurred while the plane was over the Pacific Ocean.

His wife, a retired teacher, suffered an ear injury as the plane quickly depressurized and also suffered neck and back injuries during the emergency ramp evacuation of the plane, according to the couple’s attorney, Jamie R. Lebovitz.

″Emotionally, they’re not doing too well,″ added Lebovitz, who said the couple have had trouble sleeping since the accident, which occurred as they began a vacation to New Zealand with Mrs. Zimlich’s sister.

Several suits have been filed in Honolulu by other survivors, according to Lebovitz.

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