Families of Boeing 737 MAX crash victims may seek compensation before the crash

A US judge determined late Tuesday that relatives of those killed in a 2019 Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX tragedy may seek compensation for passengers' agony and suffering before the jet crashed. In 2021, Boeing agreed to accept liability for compensatory damages in claims filed by the relatives of the 157 persons killed in the Ethiopian 737 MAX disaster. In February, Boeing wanted to omit any proof of passengers' agony and suffering prior to the tragedy. 


"There is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable inference that these passengers experienced pre-impact fright and terror, and that experience is part of the 'process or manner of death,'" said U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso in his judgment dismissing Boeing's claim.

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The Ethiopian Airlines tragedy resulted in a 20-month worldwide ban on the Boeing 737 MAX in March 2019, costing Boeing more than $20 billion. As of early May, cases involving around 80 victims had been resolved, with 75 still pending. The first of many trials is scheduled for June 20. In a court petition, lawyers for the victims stated that there is no proof that the passengers "perceived that they were going to crash."


There is little doubt that passengers and crew members were aware that the jet was falling before it crashed at approximately 600 mph." Separately, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas decided last year that the 346 people died in the 737 MAX disasters were legal "crime victims" and that "Boeing's crime may properly be considered the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history." A 2021 deal between the US Justice Department and the planemaker granted Boeing immunity from criminal prosecution on fraud conspiracy charges connected to the plane's defective design. Boeing repaid the government, airlines, and a crash-victim fund $2.5 billion in penalties and compensation.

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