US judge applies ‘crime victims’ status in Boeing 737 MAX crashes

A United States federal court judge has ruled relatives of the 346 people killed in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia are representatives of crime victims under federal law and should have been told about private negotiations over a settlement that spared Boeing from criminal prosecution.

The full impact of the ruling on Friday is not yet clear, however. The judge said the next step is to decide what remedies the families of victims should receive for not being told of the talks between the US government and Boeing.


The first Boeing Max 737 crashed in Indonesia in October 2018, killing 189, and another crashed five months later in Ethiopia, killing 157.

All Boeing 737 Max jets were grounded worldwide for nearly two years. They were cleared to fly again after Boeing overhauled an automated flight-control system that activated erroneously in both crashes.

Relatives are pushing to scrap the US government’s January 2021 settlement with Boeing and have expressed anger that no one in the company has been held criminally responsible for the two crashes.


Boeing Co., which is based in Arlington, Virginia, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the judge’s ruling.

Boeing, which misled safety regulators who approved the Max, agreed to pay $2.5bn including a $243.6m fine. The US Justice Department, in return, agreed not to prosecute the company for conspiracy to defraud the government.

The Justice Department, in explaining why it did not tell families about the secret negotiations with the company, argued the relatives were not crime victims.

However, US District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, said on Friday that the crashes were a foreseeable consequence of Boeing’s conspiracy, making the relatives representatives of crime victims.

“In sum, but for Boeing’s criminal conspiracy to defraud the FAA, 346 people would not have lost their lives in the crashes,” he wrote.


Boeing did not disclose key details to the Federal Aviation Administration of a safety system called MCAS, which was linked to both fatal crashes and designed to help counter a tendency of the MAX to pitch up.

Source: aljazeera

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