This week the Herrmann Law Group filed a federal lawsuit against The Boeing Company on behalf of the families of two victims who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines.
Herrmann Law Group also represents more than 30 victim families from the crash of Lion Air Flight JT 610 on Oct. 29, 2018. Both the Lion Air and Ethiopian air crashes involved new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.
The new complaint alleges three main charges: 1) Boeing’s 737 Max 8 was defective, 2) Boeing concealed the dangers of a new computer system on the aircraft from pilots, airlines, and the FAA, and 3) even after the Lion Air crash in 2018, Boeing failed to fully inform pilots of the dangers.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 departed Addis Abba, Ethiopia, on March 10, 2019. On board were eight crewmembers and 149 passengers from more than 30 countries. They were bound for Nairobi, Kenya. Many of the passengers were traveling to United Nations or African Union conferences. The plane crashed only minutes after takeoff. All on board died.
The 157 victims include Canadian Professor Adebola Pius Adesanmi, a world-renowned essayist, satirist, and human rights activist. Herrmann Law Group represents his estate.
Born in Nigeria, Adesanmi was a Professor at Carleton University in Ottawa where he was director of the Institute of African Studies. He was a popular social media figure and award-winning author known for bridging the gap between academia and pop culture.
After his death, Adesanmi’s wife, Olumuyiwa Balogun-Adesanmi, issued a statement expressing gratitude to people around the world mourning the loss.
“I have no words to describe the depths of my pain on the untimely passing of my husband, Pius Adesanmi,” she wrote. “He was an extraordinary scholar, husband, devoted father and a fine gentleman. He was an uncommon breed. He wrote about human rights, gender equality and human dignity. He practiced what he preached. I am a living witness to the kindness of his soul and love for others.”
Adesanmi, dedicated to a better Africa and world, was on the fatal flight so he could attend the African Union’s Economic, Social, and Cultural Council conference.
A few minutes after departure, the Ethiopian Airlines plane had flight control issues much like Lion Air Flight JT 610. Both planes climbed, dove, climbed and dove in high-speed roller coaster rides until the final dive into the ground at roughly 500 mph.
Preliminary investigations point to defects in the aircraft as the cause of the crashes.
Driven by competition with Airbus, Boeing modified the 737 aircraft with larger, more powerful engines. The new engines created a structural defect that destabilized the aircraft with a dangerous upward pitch that could cause a stall.
Boeing attempted to fix this hardware problem with computer software called MCAS, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. MCAS was designed to force the nose of the plane down whenever data from a single angle of attack sensor indicated the plane was approaching a stall.
There was no warning to the pilots when MCAS was activated. Further, pilots could no longer use the control column to reclaim manual control of the aircraft.
To save costs and present the false appearance of continuity with previous 737 models, Boeing’s pilot training for the significantly modified 737 Max 8 consisted of a woefully inadequate 56-minute iPad program.
The Herrmann Law Group’s complaint alleges Boeing “crossed the line between simple negligence and intentional misconduct when it concealed the dangers created by these defects in design, first from the FAA in the certification process, then in advertising to its airline customers, and worst of all, in failing to properly train and inform pilots.”
After the Lion Air crash, pilots reacted with outrage when they learned MCAS was installed without their knowledge. “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.
Following an FAA order, Boeing sent out a Flight Crew Operations Manual Bulletin after the Lion Air crash, but the information was inadequate. Among other shortcomings, the bulletin failed to advise pilots they lost the ability to reclaim manual control of the plane with the control column. The bulletin did not even expressly mention MCAS.
A preliminary report on the ET 302 crash from Ethiopian authorities indicated the pilots followed instructions provided by Boeing, including emergency procedures, but could not save the plane.
“Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has revealed a common thread through most air disaster cases,” said Charles Herrmann, the principle of Herrmann Law Group. “Generating profit in a fiercely competitive market too often involves cutting safety measures.”
The similarities of the Ethiopian and Indonesian disasters resulted in the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max. The planes are still grounded.
“Boeing needs to take full responsibility for these tragedies,” said Mark Lindquist, an attorney with the Herrmann Law Group. “To move forward, Boeing needs to fairly compensate all of the victim families.”
Boeing recently announced a $100 million fund to address community and family needs of those impacted by the crashes. The fund is unrelated to any lawsuits.
“The fund is a good step,” said Lindquist. “But the magnitude of the human loss requires a leap. Full, fair, and fast compensation for the victim families is the best thing Boeing can do along with fixing the aircraft.”
Lindquist, a former Pierce County Prosecutor, bestselling novelist, and essayist, joined the Herrmann Law Group in January. He 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. The Lion Air lawsuit against Boeing was 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. Their practice areas include all types of personal injury cases from catastrophic disasters to auto accidents. For more information please visit the website, www.hlg.lawyer, or call Herrmann Law Group at (206) 625-9104 or (253) 627-8142.