Boeing 737 MAX crash passengers are “victims of crime” US judge says

A U.S. judge in Texas ruled Friday that the people killed in two Boeing (BA) 737 MAX crashes are legally considered “victims of crime,” a designation that will determine who should be given remedies.

In December, some relatives of crash victims said the US Justice Department violated their legal rights when it reached a January 2021 delayed-trial deal with the plane maker over two crashes that killed 346 people.

The families argued that the government “lied and violated their rights through a secret process” and asked US District Judge Reed O’Connor to waive Boeing’s immunity from criminal prosecution – part of the $2.5 billion settlement – and order the planemaker to be publicly prosecuted. . the charges

O’Connor ruled Friday that “in short, had it not been for Boeing’s (Federal Aviation Administration) fraud, 346 people would not have lost their lives in the crashes.”

The families’ attorney, Paul Cassell, said the ruling was a “tremendous victory” and “sets the stage for an imperative hearing where we will present proposed remedies that will allow the criminal prosecution to hold Boeing fully accountable.”

Boeing had no immediate comment.

After the family filed a lawsuit alleging their rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act were violated, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with some of them but stuck with the plea deal, which included a $244 million fine, $1.77 billion in restitution to the airlines and a $500 million accident victims’ fund.

The agreement capped a 21-month investigation into the design and development of the 737 MAX after deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019.

Boeing did not disclose to the FAA key details of the safety system, called MCAS, which was linked to the two fatal crashes and is designed to counter the MAX’s tendency to climb. “Had Boeing not committed its crime” the Ethiopian and Indonesian pilots “would have received adequate training to respond to the MCAS activation that occurred on both planes,” O’Connor ruled.

The mishap, which cost Boeing more than $20 trillion in damages, production costs and fines and led to the 20-month burial of its best-selling plane, prompted Congress to pass legislation to reform FAA aircraft certification.

Boeing wants Congress to waive a December deadline set by legislation for the FAA to certify the MAX 7 and MAX 10. After that date, all planes must have modern cabin warning systems, which the 737 does not have.

Last month, Boeing paid $200 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it misled investors about the MAX.