Boeing accepts full liability for Ethiopian Airlines crash – avoids punitive damages

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Boeing Co. has accepted liability for the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX on March 12, 2019, in which all 157 passengers and crew were killed, according to a filing in the US District Court in Chicago. In a statement Boeing admitted under the agreement “that the 737 MAX had an unsafe condition and that it will not attempt to blame anyone else” for the crash. The statement also concluded that “Boeing is committed to ensuring that all families who lost loved ones in the accidents are fully and fairly compensated for their loss. By accepting responsibility, Boeing’s agreement with the families allows the parties to focus their efforts on determining the appropriate compensation for each family”.

Lawyers for the victims commented that: “This is a significant milestone for the families in their pursuit of justice against Boeing, as it will ensure they are all treated equitably and eligible to recover full damages under Illinois law while creating a pathway for them to proceed to a final resolution, whether through settlements or trial.” With the admission of culpability, lawyers acting for the victims will not pursue punitive damages and Boeing will withhold challenging the victims’ lawsuits that are being filed in Illinois. Next Tuesday is the day appointed by a judge for a hearing, lawyers for the victims also commenting that the compensation “will serve to hold Boeing fully accountable for the deaths of the 157 people who perished”.

The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines’ and Lion Air’s 737 MAX jets have cost Boeing in the region of US$20 billion, the company having recently agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice including US$2.5 billion in fines and compensation. However, the uncle of one of the Ethiopian Airlines’ victims, Ralph Nader, has criticised Boeing’s actions, pointing out that it will now prevent lawyers from questioning current and former Boeing senior executives or pursuing punitive damage claims. Meanwhile, the victims’ families have additionally agreed to dismiss claims against Rosemount Aerospace who made the sensors for the 737 MAX, and Raytheon Technologies Corp’s Rockwell Collins, a key supplier for the jet.

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