Judge rules that victims of deadly Boeing 737 MAX crashes are victims of a CRIME – which will allow families of those who died on board to file new lawsuits against the company
- The first Max crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189, and another crashed five months later in Ethiopia, killing 157
- Boeing, which misled safety regulators who approved the Max, agreed in January 2021 to pay $2.5 billion – including a $243.6 million fine
- A judge in Fort Worth, Texas, has now said the crashes were a foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s conspiracy
- His ruling means the relatives are representatives of crime victims – but the full impact of the ruling is not yet known
A federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday that relatives of people killed in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes are crime victims under federal law and should have been told about private negotiations over a settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution.
The first Max crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189, and another crashed five months later in Ethiopia, killing 157.
All Max jets were grounded worldwide for nearly two years.
They were cleared to fly again after Boeing overhauled an automated flight-control system that activated erroneously in both crashes.
The full impact of the Texas ruling is not clear, however.
The judge said the next step is to decide what remedies the families should get for not being told of the talks with Boeing.
Some relatives are pushing to scrap the government’s January 2021 settlement with Boeing, and they have expressed anger that no one in the company has been held criminally responsible.
Forensic teams and workers are pictured on March 12, 2019, recovering wreckage from a Boeing Max flight that crashed outside of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia
Investigators with the U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) look over debris at the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 on March 12, 2019
Relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 157 on board
Family members of the flight’s main pilot, Captain Yared Getachew, carry photographs of him as they mourn at the scene
Boeing Co., which is based in Arlington, Virginia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boeing, which misled safety regulators who approved the Max, agreed to pay $2.5 billion including a $243.6 million fine.
The Justice Department agreed not to prosecute the company for conspiracy to defraud the government.
The Justice Department, in explaining why it didn’t tell families about the negotiations, argued that the relatives are not crime victims.
Officials examine victims recovered from the Lion Air jet that crashed into Java Sea in October 2018
However, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, said the crashes were a foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s conspiracy, making the relatives representatives of crime victims.
‘In sum, but for Boeing’s criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA, 346 people would not have lost their lives in the crashes,’ he wrote.
Naoise Connolly Ryan, whose husband died in the second Max crash, in Ethiopia, said Boeing is responsible for his death.
‘Families like mine are the true victims of Boeing’s criminal misconduct, and our views should have been considered before the government gave them a sweetheart deal,’ she said in a statement issued by a lawyer for the families.
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