Aviation & Space Law

Boeing’s legal troubles over airplane grounding could just be taking off

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Boeing airplane

Photo from PK-REN/Flickr.com.

Nearly three dozen lawsuits have been filed against Boeing since its 737 Max 8 aircraft operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia on Oct. 29, killing all 189 people aboard.

Now that an Ethiopian Air flight in a 737 Max 8 crashed in Ethiopia on March 10 and killed 157 people, and the United States and many other countries grounded the aircraft series pending further investigation, Boeing could face countless other lawsuits, report Law.com, Crain’s Chicago Business and CNN.

While the cause of the crashes is still unknown, similarities between the two point to a potential problem with the Boeing 737 Max’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, an anti-stalling software that could push an aircraft into a nosedive despite a pilot’s attempts to make it climb during takeoff.

Eight of the passengers on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were Americans, whose families could bring lawsuits against Boeing, according to Law.com. Southwest Airlines, American Airlines or any other airline that operates the series also could sue over loss of revenue during the grounding of the fleet.

On Wednesday, Norwegian Air CEO Bjørn Kjos announced to customers in a recorded message that the airline would seek compensation from Boeing.

The investigation into the Ethiopian Air crash also could affect earlier lawsuits related to the Lion Air crash, particularly whether the two incidents were caused by the same problem.

Nearly all of them were filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County or the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. An additional case was filed in Seattle.

Pete Flowers, a partner with plaintiffs law firm Meyers & Flowers in Chicago who filed a lawsuit against Boeing on behalf of a Lion Air crash passenger, said in a press release Wednesday that he thinks mounting evidence will prove that Boeing failed to manufacture a safe aircraft.

“The company’s ongoing negligence resulted in the deaths of passengers and crew of the Lion Air flight, and possibly now the Ethiopian Airlines flight as well,” Flowers said in the release. “It is no wonder so many countries are grounding Boeing’s 737 Max 8.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing president, CEO and chairman, said: “Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements and help ensure this does not happen again.”

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