In Yang v. Air China, Case No. 1:14-cv-06482 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 27, 2017), Plaintiff Jiqin Yang sued Air China and Boeing for the wrongful death of his mother, Fengyun Wu. Ms. Wu had collapsed and died on the jet bridge during the disembarkation of an Air China flight in Beijing, China. There were no witnesses of Ms. Wu's collapse. A death certificate issued for Ms. Wu concluded that Ms. Wu died of sudden death caused by "pulmonary embolism with high probability not exclude myocardial infarction." Plaintiff relied on the expert testimony of a physician who opined that Ms. Wu died from a fall caused by her slipping on the surface of the aircraft door sill while stepping down onto the jet bridge. With respect to Boeing, Plaintiff alleged that the aircraft door sill was defective because of its alleged slippery condition. With respect to Air China, Plaintiff alleged that Ms. Wu's death was caused by a Montreal Convention Article 17 "accident" – an "unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger."
Defendants Air China and Boeing moved to strike Plaintiff's expert's opinion and separately moved for summary judgment dismissing Plaintiff's claims. The Court granted defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's expert opinion in part and granted Air China and Boeing's motions for summary judgment.
The Court excluded Plaintiff's expert's opinion as to where Ms. Wu fell as based on speculation. According to the Court, Plaintiff's expert, a physician who is neither an expert in accident reconstruction or aircraft design, was unable to rule out that Ms. Wu had fallen after successfully deplaning the aircraft. The Court further questioned, but had no need to decide whether to exclude, Plaintiff's expert's opinion that Ms. Wu died as a result of trauma from a fall.
The Court granted Boeing's motion for summary judgment because, without the excluded portion of Plaintiff's expert's testimony, Plaintiff lacked evidence to show that Ms. Wu was injured because of the alleged defect.
Likewise, the Court granted Air China's motion for summary judgment because, without the excluded portion of Plaintiff's expert's testimony, Plaintiff lacked any "supportable factual theory as to why [Ms. Wu's] fall was the result of anything unusual or unexpected happening on the jet bridge."
Clyde & Co lawyers Andy Harakas and Philip Weissman represented Air China in this matter.