On March 11, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi crashed. There were 149 passengers and eight crew members on board, all of whom died. The cause of the disaster was the shortcomings in the operation of the maneuvering performance enhancement system (MCAS), which should imperceptibly correct the pilot’s actions when controlling the aircraft. The same problem led to the crash of Lion Air’s Boeing 737 Max a few months earlier.
In November 2021, Boeing and lawyers for relatives of those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash reached an agreement that will allow claims against the company to be settled. Boeing agreed to accept responsibility for the plane crash and pledged to pay compensation to the families of the victims. In response, they should not seek punitive damages against Boeing in court.
But how writes The Wall Street Journal, one issue remains unsettled. Lawyers for the families of the victims and the aircraft manufacturer are arguing over whether the company should pay for the suffering suffered by the victims before they died. Boeing is seeking to remove this item from the lawsuit. Lawyers for the company claim that the victims of the crash died instantly when the plane crashed into the ground. In their opinion, the pain and suffering that may have been experienced by the victims of the accident before the crash of the liner is not legally related to the calculation of damage.
Boeing lawyers said that in the absence of sufficient evidence that the victims were in pain before death, the law of the state of Illinois, where the company was headquartered at the time, allows damages related only to grief and loss to relatives, but not to the suffering of the victims.
“Boeing is aware of the enormous tragedy that has befallen the families of (the deceased). But the laws of Illinois provide that evidence of the pain and suffering of passengers before the collision (aircraft with the ground) cannot be accepted in support of compensation for damages, ”the company’s lawyers said in a statement sent to the court. A spokesman for the company said that Boeing deeply sympathizes with all those who lost loved ones in the crash, and recalled that the aircraft manufacturer “undertook to fully and fairly pay compensation to every family who suffered a loss.”
According to The Wall Street Journal interlocutors familiar with the course of the trial, potentially we are talking about compensation in the amount of millions of dollars for each plaintiff. According to court documents, Boeing claims that evidence of victims’ suffering will affect and embarrass jurors, likely leading to an award to plaintiffs of an amount equivalent to possible punitive damages – which the families of the victims had previously agreed not to claim.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, in turn, argue that Boeing’s position is contrary to Illinois law and their previous agreement with Boeing. According to them, the 157 people on board “undoubtedly experienced emotional stress, pain, suffering, and injuries, and at the same time withstood extreme Gs, prepared for a collision, knew that the aircraft was malfunctioning, and that it would fall. to the ground at an alarming rate.
To resolve the dispute, the parties hired experts who considered various physical and psychological issues, including whether the victims knew they were going to die, whether the seat belts could injure them when the liner crashed, and so on. Plaintiffs’ expert Troy Faaborg said the victims likely experienced panic and nausea, they may have developed heart problems and may have felt as if their eyes were “popping out of their sockets.”
Boeing calls such claims speculative. Company expert Jonathan French said the passengers were “no doubt scared,” but “people tend to cling to hope and not expect the worst.” “Ultimately, it is impossible to understand the subjective experience of each person,” he concluded.