Boeing says it has reached a stipulation with families of the 157 people killed in the 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The aircraft manufacturer accepts legal responsibility for the crash and agrees to negotiate compensation to the families.
Boeing filed the stipulation in a Chicago federal court on Wednesday. In the filing, the manufacturer makes it clear that it’s accepting responsibility for the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, operated by a Boeing 737 MAX 8. It also goes on to absolve the pilots and does not blame any other person for the crash. It’s a major milestone in a heartbreaking case.
The Boeing 737 MAX was Boeing’s best-seller before it was grounded for nearly two years following two crashes that killed 346 people. What followed was a scandal involving failures with the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) and revelations that its former Chief Technical Pilot misled regulators and the airlines about how the system operated. The planes are fixed and flying safely today, but Boeing is still facing fallout.
Families will now be able to pursue compensatory damages against Boeing for the crashes through mediation, trials or other means. Negotiations will be overseen by the same judge that continues to handle settlements for the Lion Air crash.
As part of the stipulation, the families will not be able to seek punitive damages and dismiss claims against MAX suppliers Rosemount Aerospace and its parent company, Rockwell Collins.
Court records show that the judge ordered Boeing to turn over its documents on the changes made to the MCAS system leading up to the present day. Boeing proposed to turn over documents dated no later than June 17, 2019, the day its engineers initially finished changes to the MCAS system, but before the very lengthy certification process with the FAA and other regulators.
Boeing’s argument was that the “vast majority” of the documents of MCAS changes past that date were irrelevant and involved some additional 350,000 engineering hours. It also felt that complying would also increase the time and expense of document production.
The court disagreed and demanded all documents to the present day, which Boeing spent months fighting. It eventually complied and sent over the ordered documents, then conceded liability soon after.
Ralph Nader’s niece was among the victims and as Reuters reports, he’s criticising the deal since it doesn’t allow families to seek punitive damages or allow for the questioning of Boeing executives.
Still, lawyers for the victims’ families believe that this agreement and subsequent compensation will hold Boeing accountable for the deaths of those aboard that plane.