A Delta Air Lines jet made an emergency fuel dump over a southern California school playground. The incident happened on Jan. 14, 2020. Delta flight 89 was bound for Shanghai after taking off from Los Angeles. Shortly after takeoff, the pilots reported engine failure. After making an emergency fuel dump, it returned safely to Los Angeles International Airport. More than 40 people, including schoolchildren, reported minor injuries and discomfort. The FAA is investigating.

Delta faces another lawsuit over jet fuel dump over Los Angeles schools

Delta Air Lines faces another lawsuit over the dumping of fuel over schools and residents in Southern California in January.

A teacher at Pioneer High School in the Los Angeles area filed the lawsuit over exposure to fuel dumped from Delta Flight 89 on Jan. 14, 2020.

The flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai had an engine issue shortly after takeoff that required a quick return to Los Angeles International Airport. The plane released fuel to reach a safe landing weight, exposing children in school and adults on the ground to the fuel vapor before the plane landed safely back at LAX. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

The teacher, Deodre Cotton, is represented by McNicholas & McNicholas LLP and Redefine Law Firm and claims in the suit that she was coated with jet fuel that penetrated her skin, mouth and nose,. She alleges she had an allergic reaction causing irritation to her throat, that she became wheezy, sick, dizzy and nauseous and suffered emotional distress from fear of long-term health issues.

Delta declined to comment on the lawsuit but issued a statement saying it is “focused on working closely with community leaders to understand how we can best support those who have been affected and have cooperated fully with the FAA in its investigation.”

Delta said its crew “made decisions with the goal of getting the aircraft on the ground as quickly and safely as possible, and the FAA determined that the crew complied with all applicable regulations during the emergency landing.”

The suit alleges negligence and that Delta had a duty to avoid dumping jet fuel from an aircraft in flight over populated areas, and it seeks damages for medical expenses, emotional distress and pain and suffering, other damages and attorneys’ fees.

The lawsuit follows one filed shortly after the incident by four teachers at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy, Calif., and another filed by three high school students at Pioneer High.

Delta said: “We deeply regret that community members were affected by the incident. Continuous improvement is at the core of our brand, and we will continue working with the FAA to learn from this and develop specific actions to reduce the chances of similar incidents occurring in the future.”

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.