On March 12, the Herrmann Law Group filed a lawsuit against the Boeing Company on behalf of the families of 17 victims who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 operated by Lion Air. The complaint alleges that Boeing equipment failed, and that Boeing failed to properly inform pilots about the presence and dangers of a new automated system installed on the aircraft.
On Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air flight JT 610 left Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, for the island of Bangka. Two minutes into the flight, a pilot notified ground control of “flight control” issues.
A new, automatic anti-stall system received faulty data. As a result, the anti-stall system kicked in and forced the nose of the plane down. The pilot manually pulled the nose back up.
The pilot’s efforts fixed the issue, but only temporarily. For several minutes the pilot was engaged in a tug-of-war. The system would force the nose down. The pilot would bring the nose back up.
Suddenly, about 12 minutes after take-off, the plane went into a steep dive. About 45 seconds later the plane crashed into the ocean at approximately 500 miles per hour, killing all 189 people on board.
The anti-stall system the pilot struggled against, known as the MCAS, was new to the 737 MAX. Boeing did not include any mention of the new system in the Aircraft Flight Manual, which pilots rely upon. Further, the system activates automatically with no notice given to the pilot.
Pilots around the country reacted with outrage when they learned the new system had been installed without their knowledge or proper training.
“It’s pretty asinine for them to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls,” Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the safety committee for the Allied Pilots Association, told the Wall Street Journal.
The president of the pilots union at Southwest Airlines, Jon Weaks, said, “We’re pissed that Boeing didn’t tell the companies, and the pilots didn’t get notice.”
The aircraft company concealed the new system and minimized the differences between the MAX and other versions of the 737 to boost sales. On the Boeing website, the company claims that airlines can save “millions of dollars” by purchasing the new plane “because of its commonality” with previous versions of the plane.
“Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has revealed a common thread through most air disaster cases,” said Charles Herrmann, principle of Herrmann Law. “Generating profit in a fiercely competitive market too often involves cutting safety measures. In this case, Boeing cut training and completely eliminated instructions and warnings on a new system. Pilots didn’t even know it existed. I can’t blame so many pilots for being mad as hell.”
Additionally, the complaint alleges the United States Federal Aviation Administration is partially culpable for negligently certifying Boeing’s Air Flight Manual without requiring adequate instruction and training on the new system. Canadian and Brazilian authorities did require additional training.
Herrmann Law is internationally renowned as the premier firm for aviation litigation. Charles Herrmann has represented hundreds of victims in aviation disasters, including KAL flight 007, which was shot down by a Russian fighter jet, a China Airlines flight that exploded mid-air, an Asiana flight that crashed on approach to San Francisco, and many others.
Former Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, who joined the Herrmann Law Group in January, is working on the case with Herrmann. They met with victim families in Indonesia earlier this year. More family members are expected to join their lawsuit.
“These families are heartbroken. They deserve vigorous representation,” said Lindquist. “As a prosecutor for 23 years, I was committed to justice, accountability, and helping people. That’s my focus in this case as well.”
Lindquist has tried some of the biggest cases in Washington State, including the murder of Special Olympian Kimmie Daly and the Tacoma Mall shooting. He also filed a lawsuit against “big pharma” as the elected prosecutor. This is his first case as a plaintiff’s attorney in private practice.
The Herrmann Law Group, founded in 1950 by former State Senator and State Insurance Commissioner Karl Herrmann, is a personal injury firm with offices in Seattle and Tacoma. They handle all types of personal injury cases from catastrophic disasters to car crashes.