A Toronto law firm, Thomson, Rogers has issued a $20 million class action against Air Canada on behalf of the 95 passengers of flight AC 878 en route from Toronto to Zurich on January 13, 2011.
The TSB investigation report stated that under the effects of significant sleep inertia (when performance and situational awareness are degraded immediately after waking up), the first officer perceived the oncoming aircraft as being on a collision course and began a descent to avoid it. As the oncoming aircraft safely passed underneath, the captain regained control and returned to their cruising altitude. Fourteen passengers and 2 flight attendants, who were not wearing seatbelts, were injured during the descent and subsequent recovery. The seatbelt sign had been on for the 40 minutes leading up to the event.
The law firm reported that following the incident, an Air Canada spokesperson stated on January 14, 2011 that the incident was caused by unexpected turbulence. However, on April 16, 2012, the Transport Safety Board of Canada issued a Report identifying the cause as “the deliberate actions of a confused pilot who was waking from an extended sleep” (in the words of the law firm) .
According to Thomson, Rogers, at no time prior to the Report being made public were passengers provided any explanation other than the suggestion of turbulence. In fact, Air Canada entered into purported settlements with passengers for compensation without explaining what they knew to be the true cause for the accident.
The Class Action claim alleges that Air Canada covered up the true cause for the accident and claims punitive damages to punish their conduct.