Payouts to Families of Boeing Victims Could Depend on How long Passengers Knew That They Were About to Die

A lawyer representing the families of Boeing 737 Max victims said that the payout from Boeing and insurance companies could depend on how long passengers knew that their plane was doomed before it fatally crashed.

Joe Power, a Chicago-based personal injury lawyer who is representing some families who lost relatives in the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash in March, told Bloomberg that the longer their loved ones were aware that their plane was doomed, the more likely families are to get compensation.

“There’s a better chance of recovery [a legal term denoting compensation] if it took minutes rather than seconds for the plane to crash,” he told Bloomberg.

REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski Power is represe
REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Power is representing some of the families of the 157 passengers killed a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019. It was the second crash involving the aircraft in less than five months, after a Lion Air plane crashed in October 2018, killing all 189 people on board.

Boeing is facing lawsuits from many of these families, as well as shareholders who allege they were defrauded over safety deficiencies in the plane. Lawsuits have been filed by families around the world, including in the US, Kenya, and Indonesia, and Ethiopia.

REUTERS/Baz Ratner
REUTERS/Baz Ratner

A Bloomberg analysis said that settling families’ claims families could cost the company $1 billion, and potentially more if Boeing is found to have been aware of any safety deficiency of in the 737 Max aircraft.

Boeing has acknowledged that the plane’s automated anti-stall system, called MCAS, misfired in both crashes, based on information from the preliminary reports into both crashes. Both reports found that the planes repeatedly dived and that pilots were unable to stop the plane’s noses from repeatedly pointing down.

Lawyers told Bloomberg that this would have made passengers aware that their plane could be doomed, and this would likely affect how much money the families receive.

But the company has not made its legal strategy known, and it is not clear what sort of trial will take place, whether it will give cash settlements rather than go to trial, or what information will be revealed as a number of investigations into both crashes and into the plane’s certification continue.

Boeing did not answer several calls from Business Insider seeking comment on Monday. It declined to discuss its legal strategy when asked by Bloomberg.


More families came forward to sue Boeing after the company apologized for the crashes in April, with their lawyers saying that the apology helped their legal case.

But Boeing has also defended the design of its 737 Max and how it was built and certified, as well the safety features included as standard on the aircraft.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg vouched for the plane’s design and said there was no “technical slip or gap” in building the planes when addressing shareholders in April, and he also defended the company for not disclosing the existence of the MCAS anti-stall software to pilots.

Author: Sinéad Baker

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