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American Airlines passengers sue over plane catching fire in Chicago

MIAMI -- A group of American Airlines passengers sued the company after their plane caught fire right before it took off from Chicago to Miami, CBS Miami station WFOR-TV reports.

American Airlines jet evacuated in Chicago after fire

“People were terrified. People were climbing over seats. People were just trying to get out because they were afraid that this thing could blow before they could make it out of there,” said attorney Alexandra Wisner, who is representing 18 passengers.

The group isn’t only suing American Airlines but has also included Boeing, which built the plane, and General Electric, the manufacturer of the plane’s engine, in its lawsuit.

But it’s the allegations against American that have some in the airline industry paying attention.

Wisner said her clients described chaos when the fire started.

Some passengers said there wasn’t enough instruction from flight attendants.

They also said not all of the emergency evacuation slides were deployed and when one was deployed it was at an angle that had to be straightened out.

“They just weren’t given direction on how to handle it, how to get out, instruction,” Wisner said. “And because of that, it resulted in even more stress on them, even more trauma, psychological, specifically, because they were so terrified of whether or not they were going to make it out in time.”

Wisner said warning passengers about sitting in an exit row in case of an emergency is not enough to get airlines out of liability.

“The air carrier cannot shift the responsibility onto the passenger by saying that well you’re sitting next to an emergency exit door, now it’s on you,” Wisner said. “No, it’s still on the air carrier to make sure that in the event of an emergency that everyone safely and orderly exits the aircraft.”

American Airlines released a statement, which said:

“We’re proud of our pilots, flight attendants and other team members who responded quickly to take care of our customers under very challenging circumstances. American is actively participating in the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation.”

The lawsuit was filed in Illinois, which does not require the passengers to list how much money they’re asking for.

Wisner said although there were no serious physical injuries, mentally her clients will suffer for a long time.

“When you speak to these people you can see it still affects them,” Wisner said. “They’re crying. They’re noticeably upset. They’re still reliving it. It’s not over yet for them by any means.”

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