A lawsuit was filed against Boeing in a US federal court on Thursday in what appears to be the first litigation over the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crash which killed 157 people.
The lawsuit was filed in Chicago federal court by the family of Jackson Musoni, a citizen of Rwanda. It alleges that Boeing, which manufactures the 737 MAX, had defectively designed the automated flight control system. It follows earlier suits against the US company over the October Indonesia crash.
“The subject accident occurred because, among other things, Boeing defectively designed a new flight control system for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 that automatically and erroneously pushes the aircraft’s nose down, and because Boeing failed to warn of the defect,” the complaint said.
Steven Marks, the lawyer who filed the complaint, has criticized the certification process for the 737 Max 8, saying it amounted to an “amendment” of a 50-year-old model rather than a more rigorous approval process for a “new aircraft.”
“Boeing and the FAA knew about the dangers and they failed to ground the fleet,” said Marks, who also is suing over the Lion Air crash which happened in Indonesia. He said the similarities between the two accidents are “very clear.”
Boeing said it could not comment on the lawsuit. According to the company’s spokesperson, who was cited by the Guardian, it “… is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available.” All inquiries about the ongoing accident investigation must be directed to the investigating authorities, the spokesperson said.
The US aerospace giant is under intense scrutiny after two crashes, less than six months apart, killed 346 people. It is facing a criminal probe and questions from lawmakers over whether it has too cozy a relationship with its US regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration.
The company will have to make substantial payouts to the families of passengers if it’s found responsible for both the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes. Experts say the second accident could prove even more damaging for the company because plaintiffs will argue the manufacturer was put on notice by the earlier tragedy.
The world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer Boeing lost billions of dollars in market value in the days after the Ethiopia crash as regulators grounded all MAX 8s across the globe.
The company is now preparing to submit final paperwork to US regulators for a software upgrade to an anti-stall countermeasure on the 737 MAX which investigators said, in a preliminary report, repeatedly pushed the nose down on the MAX operated by Lion Air.
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