Alexandria, Virginia, January 30, 2017 – – Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has filed a Germanwings crash lawsuit on behalf of Raymond Selke and his son for the wrongful death of his wife and daughter, who were tragically killed in last year’s Flight 9525 crash. Yvonne Selke and her daughter, Emily, were the only American residents aboard the ill-fated flight.
The wrongful death lawsuit (case number 1:17-cv-00121), filed in United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, names German Corporations Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Germanwings GMBH and Eurowings GMBH, as well as Illinois-based United Airlines. Yvonne and Emily Selke purchased their travel in the United States through United Airlines, which is bound by contractual agreements with Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Germanwings. Following last year’s crash, Germanwings merged with, and now operates as, Eurowings.
Yvonne and Emily Selke initiated their trip to Spain and England on March 20, 2015 from Washington Dulles International Airport. On March 24, 2015, they boarded an Airbus A320-211 operating as Germanwings Flight 9525, which was scheduled to fly from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany with 144 passengers and six flight crew members onboard. They planned on changing planes once in Germany, to board a flight to England.
Germanwings Flight 9525 departed just after 10:00 a.m. local time from Düsseldorf and reached a smooth cruising altitude of 38,000 feet approximately 26 minutes after takeoff while over the Mediterranean Sea. Upon reaching cruising altitude, one of the flight’s two pilots exited the cockpit to use the restroom.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was alone at the controls when he began to steer the airliner into a drastic descent. Three minutes later, the speed management in the cockpit changed from “Managed” mode to “Selected” mode, which allowed Lubitz to increase the plane’s speed, along with its rate of descent.
With the plane in rapid descent, an air traffic controller asked the Germanwings flight crew what cruise level they were cleared for. The cockpit didn’t answer. The controller attempted to contact the flight crew on two additional occasions, but did not receive a response. Later, the Marseille control center, the French Air Defense system and the flight crew of another plane all tried to make contact with Lubitz, but got no response.
After using the restroom, the flight’s other pilot used the buzzer to request entry back into the cockpit. He didn’t receive a response from Lubitz. The cockpit signal from the cabin interphone captured several instances of a person pounding on the cockpit door, as well as muffled voices shouting for the door to be opened.
As the plane approached the French Alps, the “Terrain, Terrain, Pull Up, Pull Up” aural warning and the Master Caution warning were triggered in the cockpit and remained active. Yvonne, Emily and all the other souls aboard Germanwings Flight 9525 experienced extreme terror, fear and pain as they helplessly watched the plane descend and crash into mountainous terrain. All onboard died.
An investigation into the Germanwings crash concluded that Lubitz caused the crash by deliberately steering the airliner into mountainous terrain while working in the course and scope of his employment. Officials found that Lubitz started to suffer from what was possibly a psychotic depressive episode, and was able to lock out the captain because there was no policy in place requiring that there be at least two crew members in the cockpit at all times. This safety policy has been in place in the U.S. since approximately the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The European Union adopted the safety policy, albeit too late, shortly after the Germanwings tragedy.
Liability Under the Montreal Convention
Since Yvonne and Emily Selke purchased international tickets through United Airlines, their claims are governed by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal, Canada, on May 28, 1999 (known as the “Montreal Convention”). The Montreal Convention is an international treaty that has been ratified by both the United States and Germany. As parties to the International Air Carrier Transport Association Intercarrier Agreement on Passenger Liability-which specifically removes limitations on damages-United, Lufthansa and Germanwings are likewise signatories to the Montreal Convention.
The Montreal Convention provides that a lawsuit may be brought in the country where a carrier is domiciled or headquartered; where the contract of carriage was made; or where the plaintiff resides. Jurisdiction in the U.S. is proper in this case because defendant United Airlines is headquartered in Chicago; because Yvonne and Emily Selke purchased their tickets for Germanwings Flight 9525 in Virginia, which was also their principal and permanent place of residence; and because the United itinerary provided Dulles International Airport as the start and finish of the international trip.
Germanwings Crash Lawsuit Alleges Negligence
At the time of the March 24, 2015 Germanwings crash, the defendants were all part of the Star Alliance of airlines, which allowed Yvonne and Emily Selke to purchase international flights and itineraries through the United Airlines website.
As common carriers that take revenue from U.S. customers whilst promoting themselves as having the highest levels of safety, the defendants owed the passengers of Germanwings Flight 9525 a duty of utmost care and the vigilance for the safe transport of passengers, and to ensure that its aircraft is maintained and operated to the highest degree of safety and care.
According to the complaint, the defendants together negligently, carelessly and recklessly breached their duty of care to passengers by failing to maintain, operate, maneuver, handle, control, equip, manage, and pilot Germanwings Flight 9525, and by failing to properly and safely train, educate, prepare, inform, alert, monitor, guide, or tutor its pilots, crew, and other personnel to operate a passenger aircraft.
The lawsuit further alleges that the defendants failed to have known policies in place that would have timely and safely responded to or prevented emergency situations, including an unaccompanied, solitary, crew member in the cockpit.
As a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ gross negligence, Yvonne and Emily Selke suffered unspeakable horrors before their lives were tragically cut short.
“Whether it be sudden pilot incapacitation, a rogue pilot, or a pilot allowed to fly with known mental conditions, like we have here, the airline industry has long been aware of the dangers associated with just one person in the cockpit. U.S. airlines finally implemented the ‘two in the cockpit rule’ in 2001,” says aviation attorney A. Ilyas Akbari, who is representing the Selke family. “Lufthansa and Germanwings’ choice to willfully ignore these dangers cost 150 people their lives.”
Mr. Akbari goes on to add:
“When you partner with U.S. airlines, like United, and then profit from selling tickets to American residents, you should be held to account in U.S. courts when you injure or kill our residents. Germanwings and Lufthansa have refused to fully compensate the Selke family, arguing that there is no jurisdiction in U.S. courts in hopes to evade its responsibility. We have no choice but to now file this lawsuit.”
On August 15, 2016 the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) published a set of proposals, known as an “Opinion,” to the European Commission for an update of the rules concerning pilots’ medical fitness, as part of its Action Plan following the Germanwings Flight 9525 accident. On December 9, 2016 EASA published its proposed new operational rules. It is expected that sometime in 2017 the European Commission will adopt the EASA proposal and propose legislation based on the EASA’s Opinion, which will strengthen medical exams of pilots by including drugs and alcohol screening, comprehensive mental health assessment, as well as improved follow-up in case of developing medical and psychiatric conditions, among other things.
Selke Family Statement on Germanwings Crash Lawsuit:
“At a time when the deep-seated pain of our losses has scarcely diminished, we believe that the actions of Lufthansa and its subsidiary Germanwings to evade responsibility for the crash of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 leaves us no choice but to pursue legal remedy in the United States. We ask that the media remain considerate of our family’s peace and privacy during this trying process, and that all inquiries relating to this matter be directed to our attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman PC in Los Angeles.”
About Yvonne Selke
Yvonne Selke grew up in Springfield Township, Pennsylvania where she was a graduate of Springfield High School. She was a 1979 graduate of Gannon University, from which she obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology. While at Gannon, she enrolled in ROTC, was a George C. Marshall Award recipient and was subsequently commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
She served her country in a number of increasingly important positions, both in the United States and abroad, attaining the rank of Major before opting for an early retirement to raise a family in 1992. Her military decorations included the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
After military service, Yvonne joined Booz-Allen Hamilton as a consultant on April 27, 1992, and worked at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency until her death.
About Emily Selke
Emily Selke was born at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and was a resident of Nokesville, Virginia. She attended Brentsville High School before transferring to Woodbridge High School Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, where she was a member of the Choir, Choir Counsel, Physics Club, Beta Club, and National Honor Society. She was also a Student Ambassador to Australia, Choir Section Leader, Senior Class Vice President, and Girl Scout Member for Life.
Emily graduated from Woodbridge Senior High School with high honors in 2010, then attended Drexel University, where she attained a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry with a minor in Business Administration. She was a member of the ZETA Chapter of the Gamma Sigma Sigma National Service Sorority, which honored her with its Cornerstone Award.
After graduating from Drexel University magna cum laude in 2013, Emily spent the following year working in support of various Music and Arts endeavors, including the Pittsburgh and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia. She worked for Carr Workplaces as a Client Service Associate from January 2014 until her death, and had aspirations to become an event planner to establish and run, among other things, her own music festival.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman – Aviation Attorneys
Baum Hedlund is representing Raymond Selke and his son in the Germanwings crash lawsuit. Known for its dedication to clients and success in complex cases, the firm has successfully recovered over $1.5 billion in wrongful death and personal injury claims stemming from commercial transportation accidents and defective pharmaceutical products *.
The aviation attorneys at Baum Hedlund have litigated against some of the largest airlines in the world, including American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Aero Mexico, China Eastern Airlines, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines, SwissAir, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and US Airways, among many others.
In over 40 years of aviation law practice, Baum Hedlund has represented more than 650 air crash victims and their families. We are supportive of our clients’ personal and emotional needs in the wake of aviation disasters, and have built a reputation for being relentless in our legal representation-fighting for truth, justice and accountability.
Family of US Passengers on Germanwings Plane File Lawsuit – New York Times
Family of US mother, 57, and daughter, 22, killed when a co-pilot deliberately flew a Germanwings jet into the French Alps sue the airline for negligence – Daily Mail
Absturz in SüdfrankreichFamilie von US-Opfern verklagt Germanwings – Spiegel Online