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F-15 Driver Sues Boeing Over Inflight Breakup  
User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8502 posts, RR: 12
Posted (6 years 4 months 8 hours ago) and read 5056 times:

Pilot sues Boeing over F-15 falling apart

Maj. Stephen Stilwell’s lawsuit accuses Boeing Co. of endangering the lives of F-15 pilots and claims the company should have known the fighter wasn’t built to specifications.

The lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 from Boeing.


Apparently he hasn't been cleared to return to flight status yet. Quite upsetting for a fighter jock, I imagine. At least it's only $75,000 and not some outrageous amount.

I think it's a good concise article, too. Just the facts, ma'am.

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineMDorBust From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (6 years 4 months 5 hours ago) and read 4963 times:

I take it that he forgot to clear this little lawsuit with the military before filing it?

I have a felling he's about to be, Maj. Stephen Stilwell USAF(ret)


User currently offlineJakeOrion From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 1253 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (6 years 4 months 4 hours ago) and read 4916 times:

How the heck was Boeing supposed to know it was a design flaw until after the fact? They didn't build the aircraft.

But at the same time, I have to agree with MD-90, at least its no millions of dollars lawsuit. My question is why $75,000 though? Maybe its low because he might have a reasonable chance at willing, or at least a settlement?



Every problem has a simple solution; finding the simple solution is the difficult problem.
User currently offlinePope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (6 years 4 months 2 hours ago) and read 4833 times:



Quoting MD-90 (Thread starter):
At least it's only $75,000 and not some outrageous amount.



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 2):
But at the same time, I have to agree with MD-90, at least its no millions of dollars lawsuit. My question is why $75,000 though?

You guys misread the article. It says "more than $75,000."

As to the question of why $75,000 : Answer, this is the magic number that you must hit when attempting to sue in federal court on diversity grounds (as opposed to a federal question). Diversity occurs when the plaintiff and defendant are from different states. If the suit was for under $75,000 and the claim did not arise under a violation of federal law or the Constitution, a federal court could not exercise jurisdiction over the matter.

Under Article III of the Constitution, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. In contrast, most state courts are courts of general jurisdiction and can hear suits in all matters as long as they can obtain personal jurisdiction over the defendant under state law as restricted by the 14th amendment or the claim arises under a federal law where the Congress has specifically limited jurisdiction to the federal courts (most federal claims are not restricted to just state courts by the federal statute).

However, Article III has been interpreted to allow federal courts to exercise what is known as diversity jurisdiction as prescribed by Congress. Currently, the amount in controversy requirement for a federal court to hear a claim arising under state law is an amount in excess of $75,000. The plaintiff can either file the claim directly in federal court OR if they file in state court, the defendant can "remove" the case from state court to federal court. The purposes of this was originally to provide a "fairer forum" for out of state defendants to have their claims heard. It was thought that a foreign defendant (foreign in the sense that they were not a resident of the forum state) would be at a disadvantage if the plaintiff could present the case to a local judge and jury.


User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2311 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (6 years 4 months 2 hours ago) and read 4821 times:
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Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 2):
How the heck was Boeing supposed to know it was a design flaw until after the fact? They didn't build the aircraft.

Of course they built it. The fact that MD was an independent company at the time the airframe was built means nothing - it is now, after all, a part of Boeing, and thus a part of Boeing built the aircraft. Boeing acquired all of MD's liabilities when they acquired MD.


User currently offlineA320ajm From United Kingdom, joined May 2006, 538 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (6 years 4 months 2 hours ago) and read 4817 times:

I support him in his case. His life was endangered, he will have been hurt, and he is doing a hard enough fighting for his country. I though people on here would have supported their military, after all, he is not suing the USAF.
Regards
A320ajm



If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'
User currently offlineMissedApproach From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 713 posts, RR: 2
Reply 6, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 4715 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 2):
How the heck was Boeing supposed to know it was a design flaw until after the fact? They didn't build the aircraft.

I have to agree with that, Boeing didn't built it, McDonnell Douglas did. Furthermore (& I'm not saying this is the case), it's possible McDD concealed any design flaws in the products leading up to the merger in 1997.
In all honesty, any settlement in this will be far more affordable than 1) the loss of the JSF competition & 2) the loss of the Tanker competition.



Can you hear me now?
User currently offlinePope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 4689 times:



Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 6):
I have to agree with that, Boeing didn't built it, McDonnell Douglas did. Furthermore (& I'm not saying this is the case), it's possible McDD concealed any design flaws in the products leading up to the merger in 1997.

Google successor liability. In a merger (as opposed to an asset acquisition) the acquiring company assumes responsibility for the conduct of the target it is acquiring.


User currently offlineJakeOrion From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 1253 posts, RR: 2
Reply 8, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 4552 times:



Quoting Rwessel (Reply 4):

Of course they built it. The fact that MD was an independent company at the time the airframe was built means nothing - it is now, after all, a part of Boeing, and thus a part of Boeing built the aircraft. Boeing acquired all of MD's liabilities when they acquired MD.

But what about Air Force maintenance? As far as I'm concerned, this accident was the result of 3 parties failing to do their responsibilities: MD for using a flawed design in the first place, Boeing for not picking this up, and the USAF maintenance teams for not noticing nor checking this part until after the fact. Boeing is not to be the only one to blame here.

Quoting Pope (Reply 7):
Google successor liability. In a merger (as opposed to an asset acquisition) the acquiring company assumes responsibility for the conduct of the target it is acquiring.

While this is true, MD might not have been completely honest about everything when they went Boeing. However, this still does not let Boeing off the hook.



Every problem has a simple solution; finding the simple solution is the difficult problem.
User currently offlinePope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 4520 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 8):
While this is true, MD might not have been completely honest about everything when they went Boeing. However, this still does not let Boeing off the hook.

Even if MD honestly didn't know about it, Boeing would still have the successor liability.


User currently offlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 12333 posts, RR: 25
Reply 10, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 4520 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 8):
As far as I'm concerned, this accident was the result of 3 parties failing to do their responsibilities: MD for using a flawed design in the first place, Boeing for not picking this up, and the USAF maintenance teams for not noticing nor checking this part until after the fact.

I guess the key point just isn't getting through: legally speaking, Boeing is MD. There are not three parties involved, there are two.



Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineJakeOrion From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 1253 posts, RR: 2
Reply 11, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 4507 times:



Quoting Pope (Reply 9):
Even if MD honestly didn't know about it, Boeing would still have the successor liability.

Which is why I said Boeing is not off the hook.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 10):
I guess the key point just isn't getting through: legally speaking, Boeing is MD. There are not three parties involved, there are two.

I understood the point, but on a technically speaking terms, MD was a separate entity before merging with Boeing, hence my comment on the 3 parties involved. I understand that Boeing is still liable for taking over MD, but it is unfair to just single Boeing out like this when another party (or "parties") were involved.



Every problem has a simple solution; finding the simple solution is the difficult problem.
User currently offlinePope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 4478 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 11):
I understand that Boeing is still liable for taking over MD, but it is unfair to just single Boeing out like this when another party (or "parties") were involved.

I think you're actually distinguishing between legal liability (which everyone seems to agree is Boeing's by virtue of the merger) and moral responsibility (which Boeing appears not to have for this problem because as you point out it was MD who built the planes). I can accept that. However, lawsuits (rightly or wrongly) are only concerned with legal liability regardless of the moral responsibility of the parties.


User currently offlineJakeOrion From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 1253 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 4454 times:



Quoting Pope (Reply 12):
I think you're actually distinguishing between legal liability (which everyone seems to agree is Boeing's by virtue of the merger) and moral responsibility (which Boeing appears not to have for this problem because as you point out it was MD who built the planes).

Exactly where I was getting at, thank you for clearing that up.



Every problem has a simple solution; finding the simple solution is the difficult problem.
User currently offlineDragon6172 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 1202 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 4389 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 8):
MD for using a flawed design in the first place, Boeing for not picking this up, and the USAF maintenance teams for not noticing nor checking this part until after the fact.

Eh... I was under the impression this was a manufacturing error, not a design flaw. Certain longerons were manufactured incorrectly, made too thin, and not properly finished. Now I will say that MD is at fault for lack of quality assurance checking of components they recieve from there suppliers.

I am not sure that Boeing is going to have its own people comb through every single design and all the paperwork and materials of a company it is acquiring.

I am not so sure your typical Air Force maintainer would really be able to see this longeron on a daily basis since it is under the aircraft skin. Unless there was some access panel near by that let you see it, not likely to see any fatigue cracks on daily preflights and inspections. And even if they could see it, if there were no obvious cracks, your typical Air Force maintainer is not a structural engineer that can tell you that longeron was too thin or the rough finish was not right.

I am not saying the guy can not sue Boeing. Like I said in the first part, I believe a lack of QA by MD is what let those longerons get put into the aircraft. Just don't agree with your other two parts.



Phrogs Phorever
User currently offlineFumanchewd From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 4348 times:

Do soldier's sue the gun manufacturers' when they get a jam?

Something tells me this lawsuit is going nowhere fast. If he was a civilian in a civilian aircraft, he would easily get millions thereby forcing the aircraft manufacturer to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for an aircraft that costs 50k to build.

However, he is in the military and he won't get a dime.


User currently offlineMissedApproach From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 713 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 4328 times:



Quoting Fumanchewd (Reply 15):
Do soldier's sue the gun manufacturers' when they get a jam?

Well, not quite the same thing. There are emergency procedures for things like engine & hydraulic failures in airplanes. I doubt any airplane has red pages that refer to structural failure, except maybe due to battle damage.

Quoting Pope (Reply 7):
In a merger (as opposed to an asset acquisition) the acquiring company assumes responsibility for the conduct of the target it is acquiring.

Okay, so if instead of merging with McDonnell Boeing had negotiated for & bought the rights to the F-15, would that affect their liability? Or do you mean this in terms of a hostile takeover vs. a merger?



Can you hear me now?
User currently offlineRwessel From United States of America, joined Jan 2007, 2311 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 4299 times:
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Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 16):
Okay, so if instead of merging with McDonnell Boeing had negotiated for & bought the rights to the F-15, would that affect their liability? Or do you mean this in terms of a hostile takeover vs. a merger?

This can get a little complicated, but in essence, yes.

Let's say that MD had spun off the F-15 line to create "The F-15 Company." The new company would inherit the obligations of MD as regards that product. For example, there might be an ongoing production contract with the USAF.

This starts to get complicated in that MD does not necessarily escape the obligations just by spinning The F-15 Co. off, unless all the counterparties to the obligations agree. Otherwise you could trivially pass off some liability by spinning off the product line. OTOH, that agreement from the counterparties is quite common. Let's say some software company were to decide to get out of the mainframe software business, and sells that line to IBM. IBM will promptly be sending addendums to the licenses, support contracts, and whatnot for all the customers to sign. Most of whom will be happy to do so (not least because there’s often no practical alternative).

So if Boeing acquired The F-15 Company, they and MD would certainly make it contingent on the customer(s) accepting the transfer. The conditions under which that sort of thing is accepted is often spelled out in the original contracts.

This works the other way too. If you license something from someone, and you spin off the division using that thing, your almost always try to send those licenses with the spinoff. And most licenses include language to the effect that the vendor will not unreasonably withhold approval to do that.

Liability for damages is harder to split up neatly, and in this scenario (MD sells F-15 division to Boeing), it's almost a certainly that both companies would be named in the lawsuit assuming that happened within the usual time limits, and the court would be stuck trying to apportion blame. Needless to say this can get really sticky, since the plaintiffs will always try to claim that not all of the organization responsible at MD actually went to Boeing, and/or that MD was trying to duck its responsibility.

A semi-common part of that sort of deal is that the buyer would indemnify the seller for future claims. That doesn't really keep MD out of court (although it may induce the plaintiffs to not bother), but let's them go after Boeing. That breaks down if Boeing can't make good on whatever judgments were rendered against it.

That happens in reverse to - the seller can agree to indemnify the buyer for some period of time, so that they're not clobbered if something suddenly pops up.

Throw in a few mergers, a few spinoffs, some subcontractors, and placing the blame for some damaged caused can be very difficult. That's why you often see liability suits name everyone who ever had anything remotely to do with the item in question, and then the courts have to sort out the mess.

OTOH, what you don't buy doesn't in general transfer obligations. In this example, Boeing would have picked up the F15 obligations, but not the MD-11 ones. Unless of course the F-15 group had something to do with the MD-11, in which case Boeing might be liable for something (and again, the various indemnifications will start to apply here).

Of course you can buy stuff from someone else without any transfer of liability. For example, let's say Boeing wanted to buy some surplus milling machines from MD. That would transfer no liabilities or obligations, unless it was attached to the milling machine itself (let's say MD was half way through a five year maintenance contract on the milling machine - MD is on the hook for that with the maintenance vendor unless they can transfer the contract over to Boeing of reach some other accommodation with the maintenance vendor). Alternatively, let’s say an MD worker was injured using the milling machine, Boeing’s later purchase of that machine would not drop them into the middle of the worker’s suit against MD and the milling machine manufacturer.

Obviously this presents you with a way of circumventing the rules. Just sell the assets of the existing company with some huge liability to a new company in tiny bits. More than a few people have tried that, but the courts will come back and say, no, you really sold the whole thing, and then slap you around for trying to cheat.

As you can imagine, this is all full of grey areas.

A straight merger or acquisition is at least fairly simple - everything from the predecessor, assets, liabilities, obligations, etc., all move fairly directly to the new entity.


User currently offlineMissedApproach From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 713 posts, RR: 2
Reply 18, posted (6 years 3 months 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 4294 times:



Quoting Rwessel (Reply 17):
This can get a little complicated

Wow, you weren't kidding! Thanks very much for the enlightening post.



Can you hear me now?
User currently offlineKellmark From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 691 posts, RR: 8
Reply 19, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 4108 times:

There is not much likelihood of this going through successfully.

It doesn't matter who built the airplane, MD or Boeing. What will matter is that the aircraft was built according to government specifications, and as such it usually protects the manufacturer from liability as they built it according to government requirements and it was likely inspected and accepted by the government. It has also been maintained by the government. It is also likely that because it is under the government specifications, it will follow that sovereign immunity will attach and the Boeing will be protected by that doctrine, which does not allow a lawsuit against the government for these types of instances.

This has happened before with defective designs and manufacturing in aircraft, as I recall with things like ejection seats that went off without warning and killed the pilot, and with helicopters that crashed as well.

Otherwise, soldiers families whose relatives were killed or injured when weapons malfunction could sue the manufacturers. But they have no recovery as the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects those companies. Otherwise there would be literally thousands of lawsuits about these kinds of things, such as when a top heavy Humvee turns over.

If the product was a civilian design that was adopted by the government, like a B737 or DC9 derivative, then the plaintiff would have a stronger case. But in this case, the F15 was designed purely as a result of a US government specification.

People in the military usually have only one recourse when they are killed or injured. They have the military life insurance and the military health care system. But they can't sue the military.


User currently offlineMoose135 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 2295 posts, RR: 10
Reply 20, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4087 times:



Quoting Kellmark (Reply 19):
What will matter is that the aircraft was built according to government specifications, and as such it usually protects the manufacturer from liability as they built it according to government requirements and it was likely inspected and accepted by the government.

From the linked story:

Quote:
The aluminum-alloy longeron failed because it was thinner than what specifications called for and its rough finish left the longeron susceptible to cracking

Reading that, it sounds like they are claiming the aircraft wasn't built according to government specifications, hence the reason behind the lawsuit. I doubt the Air Force inspected every structural member on every aircraft delivered.



KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
User currently offlineJarheadK5 From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 216 posts, RR: 1
Reply 21, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 4060 times:



Quoting JakeOrion (Reply 8):
But what about Air Force maintenance? As far as I'm concerned, this accident was the result of 3 parties failing to do their responsibilities: and the USAF maintenance teams for not noticing nor checking this part until after the fact.

- The longeron in question is nearly inaccessible.
- The longeron was never required to be inspected before this mishap, and would likely never have been looked at unless another F-15 somewhere else suffered an inflight structural failure (which was likely to happen, seeing as how several F-15s around the fleet are still grounded due to cracked longerons, and may never fly again due to excessive repair costs).

Boeing and AFMC engineers spent nearly 2 weeks devising a way to get access to the longeron, inspect it for cracks, and dimensionally check it, without destroying anything. There's a lot more to it than "pop the inspection panel, eyeball it, slap a micrometer on it, and sign it off".



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User currently offlinePope From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (6 years 3 months 3 weeks 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 4045 times:



Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 16):
Okay, so if instead of merging with McDonnell Boeing had negotiated for & bought the rights to the F-15, would that affect their liability? Or do you mean this in terms of a hostile takeover vs. a merger?

The status of the merger as hostile or friendly would be irrelevant in this analysis. As long as one company bought the stock (as opposed to the assets) of the other, the liability would be absolute. In an asset acquisition, the liability would depend on the specific terms of the transaction. Oftentimes the parties agree that a seller retains liability and must indemnify and hold the buyer harmless for any expenses incurred. Other times, its a risk borne by the buyer (and the transaction price reflects that).

This is why you'll often see what are termed pre-packaged bankruptcies where the acquirer will agree to buy the assets only if the seller first files bankruptcy (so as to discharge the known and contingent liabilities).

To complicate things even further, some state treat asset acquisitions of entire product lines as stock transactions for purposes of successor liability. This court made rule serves to protect tort victims under the theory that if one purchases what amounts to the entire company, the purchaser shouldn't be able to escape liability for the target's torts.

Honestly, I haven't studies the details MD-Boeing merger so I couldn't tell you (or analyzed what law would apply) so I couldn't opine on the question of how it would have been treated.

Hope this helps.


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