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Boeing to appear in court, $2.5bn plea bargaining falls flat, family members of 737 MAX crashes can press for criminal charges
A court in the United States of America, USA, on Thursday, set aside a $ 2.5 billion plea bargaining and immunity arrangement Boeing earlier entered with the judiciary on the two 737 crashes in Indonesia in 2018, and the crash in Ethiopia in 2019.
Also, the Texas District Judge, Reed O’Connor, ordered Boeing to appear in court before him next Thursday, 26th January 2023, to be arraigned on a 2021 felony charge.
Justice O’Connor ruled that people killed in the two Boeing 737 MAX crashes are legally considered ”crime victims,’” and their family members had severally prayed to the court to compel Boeing to be legally arraigned on the felony charge.
Justice O’Connor who spoke with a heavy sigh like someone relieving a burden pronounced that, those family members whose relations were casualties in the two historic crashes, will now be able to exercise their inalienable right to be heard in the temple of justice.
O’Connor said further that, “any lawful representative of the victims of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October 2018, and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia in March 2019, must provide notice to the court to enable them to speak at the hearing next Thursday”, said the Judge.
Recall the earlier agreement Boeing entered on 7th January 2021, wherein it solemnly agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in legal settlements with the Justice Department and believing it had stemmed all possible and justiciable “Armageddon” the judiciary could invoke in respect of the two fatalities from the 737 Max mishaps.
The agreements, akin to plea bargaining, were believed to have resolved the criminal charges that Boeing conspired to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, which regulates the company and evaluates its planes.
Hence, it was agreed Boeing will establish a $500 million fund to compensate the families of those who died and pay a fine of nearly $244 million.
Furthermore, in that previous deal, Boeing agreed to also pay $1.77 billion in compensation to its airline customers who were unable to use or take delivery of the Max, which remained grounded in some parts of the world.
Immediately after the court pronouncement yesterday, the share value of Boeing dropped more than one percent from a daily high of $209.54 in the early afternoon of trading to just $207.09 at the close of the market.
The first disaster happened 29th of October 2018, when a Max flying on Lion Air flight JT 610, fell into the Java Sea 15 minutes after taking off from Jakarta.
All 189 aboard the plane died, including 180 Indonesians, one Italian, and one Indian.
The second crash occurred on 10th March 2019, about six months interval, when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302, which also was a Max jet took off from Bole International Airport in the Ethiopian capital and about 10 minutes while still climbing, suddenly nose-dived headlong to the ground and fatally crashed.
All 157 souls onboard the plane died.
Succinctly put, a total of 346 souls perished in the two B737 MAX crashes within six months.
However, a new historic dimension into air accidents and the aviation legal jurisprudence which tacitly has been shielding operators, manufacturers, and those who often were found culpable by the forensic accident investigation reports, is definitely assuming a new and historic dimension now.
Time will tell.