United Airlines Flight 232 Crash: July 19, 1989, in Sioux City, Iowa | Clifford Law Offices
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    United Airlines Flight 232 Crash: July 19, 1989, in Sioux City, Iowa

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    Posted on April 18, 2024 To


    Crashed: July 19, 1989 in Sioux City, Iowa

    The eyes of the nation watched as a home video fixed on Runway 2L at Sioux City, Iowa’s airport captured the chilling crash scene. Again and again, television stations aired the clip of the immense jetliner, United Airlines Flight 232, cartwheeling in flames before crash-landing in a soybean field. Passengers were thrown from the plane; 112 were killed in the deadly impact. Another 184 passengers miraculously survived, crawling to safety. There were many heroes that day.

    Doris Levenberg was among the survivors who were critically injured, suffering nerve damage that impaired the use of her limbs, as well as a broken neck, left arm, right ankle, and left leg. She was returning from Denver where she and her husband of less than a year, 71-year-old Allan, were surveying retirement nests. She was active, happy, and loved and had a wonderful life. But in 44 minutes, their lives were completely changed while the plane swirled in circles in the sky after the aircraft experienced a catastrophic failure of its tail-mounted engine. Allan was among those killed; Doris was permanently disabled and left with a life of constant painful rehabilitation.

    Chicago aviation lawyer Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, represented Doris Levenberg, among other passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 232, ultimately obtaining a $28.3 million verdict on Doris’ behalf, offering her some restitution for her permanent injuries and the death of her husband.

    During the discovery phase of the lawsuit, it was learned that safety regulations had been compromised to rush the plane’s General Electric engine into production as it competed with Rolls Royce aircraft engine manufacturing. When the fan disk on the tail-mounted GE engine exploded mid-flight, debris penetrated the tail in numerous places, including puncturing all three hydraulic systems on the DC-10, rendering the plane uncontrollable. Captain Alfred C. Haynes, a highly experienced pilot, was in charge of Flight 232, headed from Denver to Chicago on July 19, 1989, and did everything possible to maintain flight stability before the crash.

    Doris Levenberg’s case, represented by the Clifford Law Offices aviation team, was the only United Airlines Flight 232 lawsuit that went to trial against the defendants, including United Airlines and McDonnell Douglas Corporation, the aircraft manufacturer. Using state-of-the-art visual exhibits and trial presentation techniques, Mr. Clifford tried the case for two weeks before jurors who ranged in age from 22 to 76. It took the jury less than three hours to determine the verdict, a record amount at that time for a personal injury case in Illinois. The foreman was later quoted to say that it was clear from the trial testimony that she was a “fighter who wanted as much out of life as possible despite her injuries.”

    Mr. Clifford also represented Terry Brown, a Chicago-area businessman who lost his family in the crash. A $15 million settlement was obtained on behalf of Brown who lost his wife Janice and 11-year-old daughter Kimberly. The two were returning from a visit to grandma’s and at the last minute their seats had been reassigned on the plane. The two people in their previous seats survived the crash. Brown wanted to hold someone responsible for the tragic event and ensure airplane manufacturers were more aware of safety concerns. On his behalf, Mr. Clifford obtained an unprecedented admission of responsibility for the crash from the most culpable defendant, General Electric Corporation, which manufactured the plane’s engine. Although GE maintained that United Airlines and McDonnell Douglas, builders of the jet, also were responsible, GE admitted that it failed to detect a crack in the engine. Following the settlement, Brown said that although his wife and daughter paid the ultimate price, he felt he had done everything he could and everything they would have wanted him to do.

    Tenacious in his recovery of damages for the families he represented, Mr. Clifford was also able to extract an additional $250,000 from the defendants, which included McDonnell Douglas Corporation, manufacturer of the aircraft, to be donated to Chicago Children’s Hospital. The additional funds allowed for a bereavement center to be set up in the names of Janice and Kimberly Brown. In total, Clifford Law Offices recovered a combined $43 million in verdicts and settlements for the families impacted by the negligence of airline corporations and manufacturers.