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  • Sue Boeing over Erased Security Footage?

    Can You Sue Boeing over Erased Security Footage?

I am Michael Ehline, a Los Angeles and Texas airplane accident attorney. I have helped aviation victims for almost two decades, from falling luggage to helicopter crashes. I have represented thousands of injury victims since 2005 and have lobbied Congress for stronger transportation safety regulations. Can you imagine being aboard, flying with 400-600 Knott winds in your face, sitting in a seat, freezing to death? Since an incident involving an Alaska Airlines flight and a Boeing airplane departing from Portland, questions have been flying around faster than a jumbo jet at cruising speed. 

In this case, a door panel blew out while the jet flew at 16,000 feet on January 5, 2023. Here, whistleblower John Barnett testified about his employer, Boeing, and the poor airworthiness of the planes he worked on. The following day, he was found dead in his truck after he failed to show up for the second part of his testimony. 

The people on that plane suffered severe emotional distress that will stay with them for life. How the aircraft was ever declared safe for takeoff remains a mystery and has fostered an environment of intense interest in the travel community. They are lucky the pilots made it back to Portland International Airport alive.

Security Camera Footage, Repairs, Suicide?

In recent weeks, a now-dead whistleblower, John Barnett, has blown the doors off of what appears to be a vast cover-up, placing cost-cutting and inclusiveness over airline passenger safety. His comments were about a Boeing Manufacturing plant in Charleston. This particular Alaska Airlines plane was there in September last year and delivered in October. This is also where the Alaska plane (Alaska Airlines Flight 1282) was built. 

Missing Bolts?

In that case, it appears Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, a private contractor, did rivet repairs. Four bolts were missing from the blowout panel/fuselage, which caused the panel to blow out. Based on its preliminary report, the head NTSB official is trying to find the person who removed and replaced the door panel, as the security footage was taped over.

“After retiring in 2019, Barnett accused Boeing, his employer of 32 years, of cutting corners and using sub-standard parts to build planes. He claimed to have reported this to management and been ignored, though Boeing has denied this.” – Newsweek.

Warned Media He Would Not Kill Himself

On March 9, 2024, he said he was not “suicidal,” then he allegedly killed himself.

Barnett said the company had not taken action, spurring him to go public out of concern for people’s safety. His lawyers are investigating, saying there is no way this is a suicide.

“We need more information about what happened to John,” said attorneys Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles. The security camera footage of work done to an Alaska Airlines plane, a Boeing 737 Max 9, has gone missing, raising suspicions of foul play. Whether there is a lawsuit for spoliation of evidence depends. However, no matter where the accident occurred, Boeing can be sued for negligence. It depends partly on the terms and services of the passenger ticket, including a jurisdiction and venue clause to sue. Let’s break it down. 

National Transportation Safety Board & Boeing’s Side

In their defense, Boeing told ABC News it would support the NTSB’s investigation, saying, “Transparently and proactively, we have supported all regulatory inquiries into this accident.” “We have worked hard to honor the rules about releasing investigative information in an environment of intense interest from our employees, customers, and other stakeholders, and we will continue our efforts to do so.”

“During a routine Alaska Airlines flight earlier this year, a Boeing plane’s door blew out mid-flight. Since that unnerving event, federal investigators have been tirelessly scrutinizing Boeing’s production process, seeking insight into what exactly went wrong.”

However, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said her investigation has been hindered by Boeing’s lack of ‘essential’ documentation to understand the door malfunction’s nexus.

Boeing Security Footage of 737 Max Door Work Overwritten: NTSB

The report footage was ERASED. The National Transportation Safety Board’s letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation proclaims the missing footage is hampering the accident investigation. “To date, we still do not know who performed the work to open, reinstall, and close the door plug on the accident aircraft,” according to the NTSB. It has been unable to interview the door crew manager at the Renton, Washington facility. He remains on medical leave. The agency stressed it is not trying to punish the worker(s).

Boeing manufactures aircraft subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. The FAA has specific documentation and record-keeping rules, but these typically concern aircraft design, manufacture, and maintenance of the aircraft. We could find no regulations about recording and saving repair work footage.

Are you feeling confused? Feeling frustrated? Let’s investigate this surprising development further and see if a lawsuit against Boeing is viable. 

Boeing/United Airlines Problem

From allegations of poor flight controls and cutting corners, the NTSB has a lot on its hand with Boeing and now United. Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, threatened to trim Boeing orders since its fleet of MAX 9 aircraft was grounded. This came after the Alaska Airlines door blowout.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the NTSB, said a midair door blowout like the Boeing 737 MAX 9 fiasco” “can happen again.” She inferred there is a “problem with the process” of aircraft production.

Boeing Generally In Trouble?

As we delve into the meat of the issue, some spotlighted facts you ought to convenience yourself with include: 

Boeing released hundreds of pages of emails and internal communications to the Federal Aviation Administration concerning Boeing’s 737 Max jetliner. Jennifer Homendy is culling its safety culture and records spanning numerous years. Boeing initially delayed its response but finally disclosed other records for scrutiny.

Boeing has assured cooperation with the NTSB investigation, even if formal requests for such corrective actions have not been issued. 

Boeing Employees and Regulators

If need be, Boeing can reject NTSB findings– and demand further investigation or corrective actions. Some Boeing employees cast a doubtful shadow on the design of the Max and its simulator software. Part of Boeing’s decision-making process may involve automated processing. This is where machine learning and artificial intelligence come into play to refine its services.

Boeing’s woes also hit carriers like Southwest Airlines, which exclusively flies Boeing 737s. Southwest lowered its 2024 capacity growth projection as a result. Go deeper: Boeing 737 Max production plagued by numerous problems, FAA audit finds

Can You Sue for Erasing – Civilly?

Although we found nothing about criminal/federal regulations, it could be prudent not to maintain recorded footage. A court could also consider it the destruction of evidence. You probably can’t sue Boeing for overwriting tapes, but discovery sanctions may be at play when you sue. 

Can You Get Money for Spoliation?

The answer to the question, “Can I sue Boeing for spoliation of evidence over-erased security footage?” depends. Spoliation of evidence is a crucial concept in legal proceedings. It involves intentional, negligent, or accidental withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying evidence relevant to a legal proceeding. 

The opposing party’s intentional or negligent destruction or alteration of evidence could reveal details crucial to your case. Evidence tampering is often referred to as ‘spoliation of evidence.’  

According to American Bar Association Rule 3.4 and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, destroying, altering, or concealing a document or other material relevant to a matter can lead to sanctions and severe professional consequences for the attorney involved. Notice they don’t say you can sue. For sure, in California, you’d have no case.

“Spoliation was a cause of action to sue in addition to the underlying action. Originally, spoliation damages were awarded by a jury in the case in chief, whereas modernly, discovery sanctions are awarded by a judge. Most California plaintiff’s lawyers hate that the California Supreme Court eliminated our ability to sue for a once-popular cause of action called “spoliation.” It was considered a tort to spoil or “destroy” evidence.” (Source Spoliation, Ehline Law.)

Are you so, taking Boeing to court for destruction of evidence? In theory, yes, it’s possible. But you’ll need to be armed with a thorough understanding of the doctrine in your state, solid evidence, and an experienced legal team to stand a chance.

  • Products Liability: This law allows some plaintiffs to sue a manufacturer if a product causes injury or damage due to design flaws, manufacturing defects, or false advertising. Here, Alask and passengers could file.
  • Ordinary Negligence: You could sue if Boeing or Alaska Airline’s lack of reasonable care caused harm. If they failed to reasonably protect crucial security footage, which is part of their policy, perhaps a claim exists. Alaska should have noticed missing rivets before taking off, and that isn’t very careful if so. 
  • Breach of warranty: If a company violates its guarantee about the safety or function of a product, you may sue it under breach of warranty laws. Passengers and Alaska must prove that the breach directly led to harm.

The investigation into Boeing encompasses so many facets. 

  • Is Boeing expected to retain all forms of documentation and footage? What about evidence not directly related to the operation of the airplanes?
  • What legal protections exist for passengers where safety is compromised? 


The passengers and Alaska have claims against Boeing. They would be entitled to economic losses and general damages. If Boeing knowingly destroyed or overwrote security footage, it could face legal consequences.

What About Wrongful Death of Whistleblower?

For now, it’s just a conspiracy theory that Boeing or an assassin took out the whistleblower here. Although suspicious, the survivors must show more than just a theory. A Boeing spokesperson sent condolences to the family.

Panel Blowout Evidence

While there may not be specific legal requirements for Boeing to retain security footage, there could be ethical or industry best practice standards encouraging retention. Failure to adhere could potentially damage Boeing’s reputation, which could result in other negative consequences. Standards are important, and we hope Boeing acts transparently and proactively. Any release of investigative information is vital to show Boeing is acting in good faith.


For sure, now there is an active case, there are rules about the release of public and confidential information. Unless it can be proven to have been done to conceal evidence, the taped-over security footage is probably not unlawful. This case highlights the complex interplay between corporate transparency, liability, and passenger safety. This case could be a game-changer in understanding passenger rights, corporate responsibility, and air travel. We’ll keep you in the loop as updates occur. Call (213) 596-9642 to learn if you have a case.


  • Newsweek
  • Business Insider

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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.