Law firm to sue Boeing over Asiana crash

Court is asked to order the disclosure of records, preservation of evidence

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CHICAGO — A Chicago law firm says it has taken steps to sue aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. on behalf of 83 people who were aboard the Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed in San Francisco this month, claiming in a court filing that the crash might have been caused by a mechanical malfunction of the Boeing 777's auto throttle.

Ribbeck Law Chartered filed a petition Monday for discovery — a move meant to preserve evidence — in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, where Boeing is headquartered. The firm said in a news release that additional pleadings will be filed against Asiana Airlines and several manufacturers of aircraft parts in coming days. Ribbeck said that in addition to potential problems with the auto throttle, some emergency slides reportedly opened inside the plane, injuring passengers and blocking their exit, and some passengers had to be cut out of their seatbelts with knives.

Three people were killed when the airplane, carrying 307 passengers and crew on a flight from South Korea to San Francisco International Airport on July 6, approached the runway too low and slow. It clipped a seawall at the end of a runway, tearing off the tail and sending the plane spinning down the runway. The impact set the plane afire.

"We must find the causes of the crash and demand that the problems with the airline and the aircraft are immediately resolved to avoid future tragedies," said lawyer Monica Kelly, head of Ribbeck's aviation department.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said the company had no comment.

The petition asks a judge to order Boeing to identify the designers and manufacturers of the airplane's autothrottle and its emergency evacuation slides. It also seeks information on the systems that indicate the airplane's glide slope and that warn how close it is to the ground. Kelly said the firm wants to protect the wreckage "from destructive testing" and to obtain maintenance records, internal memos and other evidence.

The pilots of Asiana Flight 214 have told investigators they were relying on automated cockpit equipment to control their speed. Inspectors found that the autothrottle had been "armed," or made ready for activation, but investigators are still determining whether it had been engaged, the National Transportation Safety Board has said.

Two of the plane's eight slides malfunctioned, opening inside the cabin and pinning two flight attendants underneath.