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Boeing Facing Passenger Lawsuit After Ethiopian Air Crash

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

The recent and tragic crashes of Boeing 737 Max planes has caused quite a stir in the media, and has certainly been causing the airplane maker a lot of legal trouble. And for the 346 individuals that lost their lives, whatever justice is obtained is simply too little and too late.

Now, in addition to the official investigations, the company faces a new lawsuit in federal district court from the family of an American who lost their life on board the Ethiopian Air crash. That lawsuit alleges that Boeing could have prevented the Ethiopian Air crash because it suffered from the same problem as the Lion Air crash that occurred a few short months before.

Autopilot Fail

The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages against Boeing, claiming that company was on notice of a defect in the autopilot system because of the Lion Air crash. It was found that one of the safety features of the plane was designed in such a way that doomed pilots to an unwinnable game of tug-of-war with the plane's autopilot.

In short, the system is supposed to slightly lower a plane's nose when it detects an engine stalling. That dip is designed because pilots generally will pull the nose of a plane up when an engine stalls, and commonly pull the nose too far up. Shockingly though, rather than adjusting the nose down 0.6 degrees (as the documentation submitted to the FAA said it would), the system did so by 2.5 degrees, and it did so every time the pilot would pull up to try to correct the nose dip. Perhaps even more shocking according to the filing, is the fact that pilots were not trained or advised about this safety feature.

Crashing the Case

For Boeing, who has yet to comment on the newest lawsuit, doing the right thing publicly while trying to preserve the bottom line seems to have backfired. In the Lion Air case, several new plaintiffs have joined in, reportedly after the CEO issued a public apology. Additionally, it was noted that surviving family members were offered roughly $85,000 to settle their claims for deceased relatives.

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