Boeing faces the first of what is expected to be a number of wrongful death lawsuits brought by the family of passengers who died in an Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10, which involved a Boeing 737 MAX linked to serious safety concerns in recent weeks.
The family of Jackson Musoni, of Rwanda, filed a complaint in federal court in Chicago, naming Boeing as the defendant. According to the lawsuit, Boeing designed a defective automatic flight system for the plane, which caused the Ethiopian Airlines crash, resulting in the death of all 157 passengers and crew.
Ethiopian Airline Flight 302 fell from the air just minutes into its flight, drawing immediate comparisons to another deadline Boeing 737 Max crash last year.
On October 10, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea just 13 minutes into its flight, killing all 189 passengers and crew. Investigators have determined the pilots fought for 11 minutes to keep the plane in the air, likely due to a problem with the plane’s Angle of Attack (AOA) sensor, which kept telling an automated system, which the pilots could not shut off, to point the nose down.
After similarities were discovered between the two crashes, nations worldwide grounded Boeing’s entire 737 MAX fleet until further investigations into this latest crash and safety concerns with the plane are reviewed.
Boeing already faces several wrongful death lawsuits over the Lion Air crash, but the complaint filed by the family of Musoni is the first reported against the company over the Ethiopian Airlines accident.
On Wednesday, Boeing announced the release of a software update for the 737 Max planes, which is designed to prevent sensor errors from inappropriately activating the anti-stall system. The patch would prevent the automated system from repeatedly trying to lower the nose as it did in the Lion Air flight, and as it is suspected of doing in the Ethiopian Airlines flight. Instead, it would only attempt to adjust once, and would stop when pilots attempted to pull the nose up.
Reports indicate there was an override system on some of the planes, but the feature was only installed if buyers paid extra.
The Department of Transportation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have launched a criminal probe into the certification of the Boeing 737 MAX jet, in addition to ongoing investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board as well as French investigators who are examining the Ethiopian Airlines flight’s black box.
The FAA says the 737 MAX will return to service when the agency’s analysis of safety data indicates it is appropriate.
The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best selling aircraft with $500 billion at list prices. The company had 400 planes in operation around the world with orders for 5,000 more before countries began grounding the jets after the recent crashes.