Man Sues United Airlines, Claiming Injuries Resulted from Open Aircraft Door

by Libby Zay 
Posted Dec 1st 2010 12:28 PMUpdated Dec 2nd 2010 11:51 AM


A man has brought a suit against United Airlines, claiming he was injured when an aircraft door opened mid-flight.

Chicago talk radio station WLS is reporting Phillip Miller was onboard a flight from San Francisco International Airport to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on February 8th, 2005 when the incident happened. According to the suit filed Monday, in the middle of the flight the doors opened, creating "extreme noise" and "pressurization danger."

Miller claims he suffered permanent injuries that required medical treatment, although the exact injuries were not specified.

According to WLS, the suit asserts United Airlines employees "failed to properly close, seal, secure or fasten the aircraft doors prior to departing San Francisco." In addition, the suit claims the indicator lights were not working properly or staff failed to acknowledge the lights.

In 1989, nine passengers were killed on a United Airlines flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Auckland, New Zealand when an aircraft door blew open. The incident happened just 16 minutes after takeoff.

Miller has filed a four-count suit in Cook Country Circuit Court, and is seeking unspecified damages from United Airlines Inc. and UAL Corporation.

United Airlines has not yet released a statement on the incident.

Editor's Note: A former version of this article wrongly stated the aircraft door involved in the 1989 incident was the "cockpit door." We regret the error.

Photo by ChicagoKoz on flickr.

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Hope the plaintiff loses his case.

December 02 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I assume the individual is suing over a CABIN door, as a cockpit door would have no effect. I'm sure this was covered previously (I don't have time to go through all the previous posts), but 99% of all cabin doors on airliners are "plug" doors, that is, they are like corks and are bigger than the opening. They cannot open inflight. Superman could not open them. In addition to other safeguards, they are wedged in place by the differential air pressure of the pressurized cabin, 8 psi or more, 20,000+ pounds of pressure on a door. If you watch the boarding door opened, it is first pulled inside the plane, then once it is rotated slightly, it can swivel outside. Since it is slightly larger than the hole, it cannot swivel outside until it is canted. And those overwing window exits? Note that the instructions tell you to pull them into the plane, then run outside? Yup, they're bigger than the hole too. They can only fit through the hole if they're rotated.
So, the bottom line is, there was NO danger that a door would open inflight, it's impossible. I know of no instance that any cabin door of any make of modern commercial jet has ever opened inflight. (Cargo doors are different on many aircraft, too large to open inwards, so that is a different issue).
"Depressurization Danger?" Very unlikely. I've seen rubber seals around the edges of cabin doors squeal or hiss, and they are repaired by reseating them, cleaning, or replacement (perhaps a maintenance person can help me out here). Nuisance noise at most. But even if a cabin does depressurize, there's an oxygen mask for everyone, FREE! (Hmm, intersting thought, a credit card slot for the oxygen masks... could charge 500 bucks each for that! tic) It is rare but not uncommon to lose cabin presssure, and in the end it's no more than an exciting story to tell your friends.
"Extreme noise?" Oh, I guess it might be noisy with a leaking seal, if you're a sissy. 'Maybe we should chug on over to mamby-pamby land where maybe we could find some self confidence for you, ya jackwagon!'

Lawyers; can't live with them, can't deny them an oxygen mask.

December 02 2010 at 9:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Okay, so I'm guessing this guy is going to ask for what? 4, 5, 6 million for this door opening up and causing a big scare, let alone depressurization and probably a roller coaster ride. Lets seriously ask ourselves. Does he really deserve 4 million dollars? I hope they don't give it to him. It's people like him who hold up the courts and cause a fuss over little, if anything. I agree he should probably get something. But I'm just hoping they don't throw the lottery his way. Because there's a lot of starving people out there and 4 million dollars would be a big waste.

December 02 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Folks, get a grip "in the middle of the flight the doors opened, creating "extreme noise" and "pressurization danger." does not mean that the door(s) opened. It seems that all this fool heard was a pressurization squeal (door seal). If the flight had a pressurization problem or a "door open" issue, I'm sure they would have made an emergency landing at the nearest airport. You don't screw around with door warning issues as someone mentioned about the United DC-10 cargo door issue some years ago. As I heard it, the Ramp fool forced the safety lock closed when the door latches were not fully engaged. After takeoff and full pressurization the latches failed and the door blew off. In 1972, American Airlines Flight 96, another DC-10, had its cargo hatch blow off in flight. In the ensuing investigation it was discovered that the handlers had forced the locking handle closed in spite of the fact that the latches had not rotated completely - because of an electrical problem. Figure when you have 8.9 PSID and the amount of square inches in a door, the pressure is GREAT. That amount of pressure will also give you a loud squeal when the door seal doesn't mate completely.

December 02 2010 at 7:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

when is a door not a door ??

when it is a jar. ! !

December 02 2010 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I must be reading a different story. Nowhere in the story above does it say anything about a "cockpit"
door. It says an aircraft door. I took that to mean
an "outside" door. I don't think anyone would try to sue over the cockpit door opening. That's obsurd.

December 02 2010 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bruce's comment

The original story said "cockpit door"--the author apparently changed it to "aircraft door" after being corrected on here many times.

December 02 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey, that earlier comment from someone named "Judy" talking about outsourcing...that wasn't from me. I was the one who opted for throwing the guy out the door, preferably at 10,000 feet LOLOL
Just kidding...but still a funny idea.

December 02 2010 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave Mieras

First off, cabin doors are all plug type so they cannot come open in flight or lose pressurization. If a seal around the door is worn ,they can be noisy but that is the extent of it., The guy suing is a moron......

December 02 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Impossible. The doors open up or outward. He was probably drunk and hit his head on the door causing him to become delusional.
If this did indeed happen, why wasn't he sucked out of the plane?

December 02 2010 at 1:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dumb ass, you anly have two years to file suite for bodily injury. He must need money to pay his bills. You should see all the fraud claims coming in. Do't forget they take you to jail fo rthat. But this putx had to file within two year sof his injury not 5. DADA

December 02 2010 at 12:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply