The nation's first jury trial in a toxic cabin air injury case, Weiland v. Boeing, will take place in Chicago in April 2022. The case involves the tragic death of an American Airlines pilot, Captain Ronald Weiland, whose family is suing Boeing over his exposure to toxic fumes on a Boeing 767 aircraft in 2016. Captain Weiland's family contends that his exposure to the toxic air triggered his development of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which caused his death in 2019, at the age of 57.
Along with other similar cases currently pending in Cook County and Illinois federal court, the Weiland case alleges a design flaw on most of Boeing's commercial airplanes. With the exception of the 787 Dreamliner, all Boeing commercial aircraft use a "bleed air" system, whereby air being used throughout the aircraft--including the air being breathed in the cabin and cockpit--is pressurized and "bled" from the engines. That design allows for chemicals present in jet engine oil and hydraulic fluid to enter and contaminate the air system. These lawsuits allege that "toxic air" events occur when there is an oil leak in an engine or when carbon-based material builds up in the vents over time and is dislodged and pyrolyzed (decomposed by high temperature), bringing potentially toxic fumes into the cabin or cockpit. The plaintiffs allege that Boeing has long been aware of the problem and its health consequences to pilots, crew, and passengers but chose not to fix or guard against these events with sensors or filters.
The Weilands are represented by Littlepage Booth Leckman and Power Rogers, and the trial is set to last several weeks in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which sits in the Daley Center, just blocks away from Boeing's international headquarters.