News: Ethiopian 737 MAX crash families set to obtain key Boeing documents.
(Reuters) – Families of victims of Ethiopian Airlines’ fatal jet crash in 2019 may receive reports as early as Thursday from Boeing to U.S. regulators that helped clean up the 737 MAX on the same jet in Indonesia following an earlier disaster flew on five months earlier.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent U.S. government investigative agency, told Boeing Co in a letter Monday to hand over nearly 2,000 documents to lawyers representing families who want to find out what the company is after the Indonesian knew about its flight systems crash on Lion Air.
The agency said international rules require the documents to be released after two years from the date of the crash, although Ethiopia is not yet required to submit a final crash report, according to the letter verified by Reuters, which the agency cited so far in freezing the documents.
Boeing said it plans to provide plaintiffs with the information related to the investigation starting today, in accordance with NTSB guidance that restrictions would be lifted on the second anniversary of the Ethiopian accident.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they expect the papers to show what Boeing executives knew about deficiencies in the flight system of the redesigned aircraft after the crash in Indonesia. An automated flight control system called MCAS was involved in both crashes, in which a combined total of 346 people were killed.
The plane continued to fly until the crash in Ethiopia triggered a global landing.
“What we want to see are the documents on which Boeing opposed the plane’s grounding and claimed to its customers that the plane was safe,” plaintiffs’ attorney Justin Green told Reuters.
Any evidence that Boeing executives were aware of the 737 MAX issues could expose Boeing to tremendous punitive damage, which is uncommon in aviation accidents as aircraft seldom fly with a known fatal defect.
Boeing has already provided plaintiffs with 112,587 documents, which are millions of pages, Greene said, but the tracked records are considered an important part of the case.
BUILD A CASE
Boeing has made changes to ensure accidents like those in Indonesia and Ethiopia never happen again, and numerous aviation regulators have re-approved the aircraft for flight.
The company resolved a criminal investigation worth 737 MAX in January with a Justice Department settlement of $ 2.5 billion and largely resolved the litigation surrounding the Lion Air crash.
In Delaware, there is still an investor lawsuit against its board of directors and around 140 lawsuits from families over the crash in Ethiopia.
In the DOJ settlement, Boeing admitted that two of its 737 MAX engineering pilots, pending criminal investigations, had deceived the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about MCAS.
While the settlement exonerated Boeing executives, legal experts said it supported part of plaintiffs’ criminal complaint that Boeing intended to defraud the FAA and was successful.
However, the experts said punitive damages are rarely granted in airplane crash cases, partly because they are difficult to prove.
For example, Boeing could argue that after the Lion Air crash, Ethiopian Airlines pilots were informed of the steps to follow in the event of an MCAS outage, said Kenneth Quinn of International Aviation Law.
Still, Boeing will likely work hard to settle the cases and avoid going to court, a route most companies involved in crash lawsuits have taken, according to Gary Kennedy, former general counsel of American Airlines.
“From the company’s perspective, the worst is a headline reliving the final moments of someone’s life aboard this aircraft,” said Kennedy, who was heard during a lawsuit that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks and a separate fatal crash in New York was dating American two months later.
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Arrangement by Tom Hals and David Gregorio
Original Source © Reuters