Originally created 08/27/99

Family files suit against Swissair



The husband of an Augusta woman who died Sept. 2 when a Swissair jet crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia, filed a lawsuit seeking up to $475 million in damages.

Woodrow Wilson Smith, individually and as the executor of Caroline Jones Smith's estate, filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Augusta against Swissair Transport Co., McDonnell Douglas Corp. and its successor Boeing Co.

A lawsuit represents only one side of a dispute.

Mr. Smith's lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, alleging negligence on the part of the international airlines and on the manufacturer of the MD-11 that crashed.

Flight 111 from New York to Geneva on Sept. 2, 1998, went down in the waters off Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, 21 minutes after the crew reported smoke in the cockpit and requested permission to land at the nearest airport, according to the lawsuit and media reports of the crash. All 229 people, including Mrs. Smith and her friend Cherie Hastie of Marietta, Ga., were killed.

The lawsuit and media reports about the crash state the Federal Aviation Administration issued a directive in 1997 warning about the possibility of in-flight fires and smoke in MD-11 cockpits because of wire chafing.

Earlier this month, the FAA, which had ordered airlines to replace extensive wiring insulation in the planes, scaled back that directive, according to news reports. The cause of the Swissair Flight 111 crash is under investigation.

The lawsuit alleges the crash was caused by electrical, mechanical and/or structural failure.

The lawsuit seeks damages for Mrs. Smith's severe mental anguish and fear, as well as her injuries and death. It also seeks damages for her family's pain, grief and anguish.

Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Hastie were flying to Europe for a vacation. Mrs. Smith, 61, had lived on Indian Cove with her husband of 31 years.

Sandy Hodson covers courts for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.