Flight attendants’ eardrums burst by faulty smoke alarm on United flight, lawsuit says

2015: Boeing 737 MAX fuselage unveiling

Spirit AeroSystems employees look over the first Boeing 737 MAX fuselage during its unveiling. (Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle/Aug. 13, 2015)
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Spirit AeroSystems employees look over the first Boeing 737 MAX fuselage during its unveiling. (Mike Hutmacher, The Wichita Eagle/Aug. 13, 2015)

Two flight attendants are suing Boeing after they say an alarm malfunctioned on the aircraft and caused their eardrums to burst during a United flight.

Matthew Sodrok and Lee Marvin Sanders filed a lawsuit against the Chicago-based company on Thursday in the Northern District of Texas court. Both attendants are from Harris County.

Boeing was not immediately available for comment on Thursday night.

In January 2107, the suit says, Sodrok and Sanders were flight attendants on United flight 1975 from Denver to Houston. The flight was on a Boeing 737 aircraft, which has been under fire internationally recently following several safety concerns.

During the flight, the suit says, an “ear-splitting ringing filled the aircraft” from the back of the plane.

“Despite no fire or smoke present in the aircraft, the rear lavatory fire and/or smoke detection device sounded,” the suit states. “The alarm was louder than necessary to alert the entire aircraft and could be heard loudly and clearly in the front of the cabin.”

The alarm burst Sodrok and Sanders’ eardrums and their ears started to bleed, according to the lawsuit.

Both attendants suffered permanent hearing loss due to the alarm, they say in the suit.

According to the lawsuit, the defective alarm was a malfunction of the smoke detection system in Boeing 737s. The suit says Boeing was negligent by not repairing the faulty smoke detection system or issuing warnings about the risk of excessively loud alarms.

The safety of the Boeing 737 has been questioned before.

On Oct. 29, a Boeing 737 crashed into the sea with 189 people on board after taking off from Indonesia.

Earlier in November, the National Transportation Safety Board held a hearing on the engine failure of a Boeing 737 during a Southwest Airlines Flight. A Dallas-bound passenger was killed.

The April 17 flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas Love Field was interrupted when one of the aircraft’s two engines failed, sending metal debris through a window and killing passenger and Wells Fargo executive Jennifer Riordan.

The Boeing 737 aircraft is the fastest-selling plane in Boeing history, with almost 4,700 planes sold or on order, and it is flown by nearly 40 airlines worldwide, The Washington Post reported.

Southwest Airlines and American Airlines utilize the Boeing 737, according to USA Today.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.