Family of US Passengers on Germanwings Plane File Wrongful Death Lawsuit

By JOAN LOWY | February 1, 2017

The family of an American mother and daughter killed when a pilot deliberately flew an airliner into a mountainside on Monday sued the German airline, its parent company and the U.S. airline that sold them their tickets.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia on behalf of the husband and son of Yvonne Selke, who was killed along with her daughter, Emily. Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, locked the captain out of the cockpit and crashed the plane in a remote area of the French Alps nearly two years ago. The two Virginia women were the only Americans on board the plane.

The lawsuit was filed against Germanwings; its parent company, Lufthansa Airlines; and United Airlines, which is headquartered in Chicago. The Selkes bought their tickets for a trip to England and Spain from United and departed on a United flight from Dulles International Airport in Virginia. United, Lufthansa and Germanwings are part of a global airline alliance that allows the companies to book flights on each other’s planes. The Selkes were traveling from Spain to Germany, where they planned to transfer to a flight to England, when the crash occurred.

The suit alleged Lufthansa and Germanwings are negligent because they didn’t have a policy requiring at least two flight crew members in the cockpit at all times. U.S. airlines have been required to have two crew members in the cockpit since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Whether it be sudden pilot incapacitation, a rogue pilot, or a pilot allowed to fly with known mental conditions, like we have here, the airline industry has long been aware of the dangers associated with just one person in the cockpit,” said Los Angeles attorney A. Ilyas Akbari, who represents the Selke family.

Yvonne Selke, a former Army officer, worked at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Emily Selke was a graduate of Drexel University who aspired to be an event planner.

Officials for Lufthansa didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

United said in a statement that the lawsuit had no merit and “we will defend ourselves.”

An international aviation treaty known as the Montreal Convention permits lawsuits to be filed in the home country of the persons harmed, according to a statement by Akbari’s law firm, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman.

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