Legal Implications of the Recent Boeing 737 MAX 8 Crashes

Earlier this month, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 was involved in a fatal crash. All 157 crew and passengers aboard the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet were killed as the plane dropped from the sky only six minutes after taking off.

This crashed marks the second incidence in the past six months involving a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft plummeting from the sky soon after takeoff. As a result, several airlines grounded all flights utilizing MAX series Boeing 737 planes until further notice. Previously, the same aircraft type servicing Lions Air Flight 610 had crashed in Indonesia within twelve minutes after departing the airport, killing all 189 souls on board. Moreover, Garuda Indonesia announced that it was canceling a pending order of 49 planes from Boeing.

Flight data recovered from the crash showed that the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft “begab porpoising or oscillating, almost undulating in the air” according to Austin Bartlett, a representative for relatives of some of the crash victims. In response, the pilots attempted to turn the flights back to the airport. Investigators believe that the planes’ new anti-stall devices – known as a Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation Systems (MCAS) – might have been responsible for the crashes. According to data, a faulty angle of attack sensor appeared to cause the MCAS device to engage and behave erratically.

Several pilots from many different airlines were convened to participate in a simulation that recreated the conditions surrounding the recent crashes. According to anonymous sources for the New York Times, pilots had less than 40 seconds to respond to the situation and prevent a catastrophic accident. As a result, Boeing implemented a software updated that allegedly rectified the issue.

Many of the families of the passengers who were killed are now seeking legal action against Boeing for the wrongful death of their relatives who were aboard the plane – a Chicago based airplane manufacturer. Although the majority of the passengers were not U.S. citizens, it is likely that their families’ wrongful death lawsuits will be filed in U.S. federal court.

The U.S. is considered one of the most liberal jurisdictions when it comes to awarding money damages in civil lawsuits. In many U.S. states, the close relatives of persons who were killed due to the wrongful or negligent conduct of another person can recover compensatory damages for the economic losses that result from the death of their loved ones.

Boeing’s Possible Liability for the Crashes

Commercial airliners are potentially liable for the deaths of their passengers if they were killed because of a defect it knew or had reason to know posed a serious risk of severe injury or death. The case against Boeing for the crashes is strengthened after the second Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

According to Brian S. Kabateck, the legal representative for the families of 12 of the victims in the Lions Air crash in Indonesia, the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 strongly suggests that “Boeing knew or should’ve known that the plane was defective and did nothing about it.”

Boeing’s possible liability for the wrongful death claims could be substantial, with 346 potential wrongful death cases looming on the horizon. However, Boeing could argue that the aircraft in question utilized the latest in automated safety technology.

The fact that Boeing issued a software patch for the MCAS issues might suggest otherwise. However, under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence that Boeing took subsequent remedial measures to bolster the safety efficacy of its MCAS technology is not admissible to prove their liability for the crashes.

Boeing also faces potential liability for economic losses suffered by airlines that purchased and used Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. However, Boeing could minimize its financial exposure to liability by making claims for contribution, suing subcontractors and vendors involved in making its MCAS devices and allegedly using defective angle of attack sensors.

Call Our Office for Quality Legal Representation

At the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser, our legal team – led by Attorney Kaiser – has valuable experience litigating various personal injury matters, including wrongful death cases involving common carriers such as commercial airliners. We are dedicated to helping those who were victimized by the wrongful and careless actions of another person or entity – such as a transportation service – seek justice for their injuries.

Call the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser at (661) 441-3446 to arrange a free consultation regarding your legal rights and options today.


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